Gatwick Airport Disruption A 'Wake-Up Call'
Disruption at Gatwick Airport that left thousands of travellers stranded on Christmas Eve last year should be a wake-up call for all airports, according to a report by MPs.
A power failure at the airport triggered by flooding forced delays and cancellations affecting more than 11,000 people during the busy holiday periods.
The House of Commons Transport Committee said passengers had complained of a lack of basic facilities, including toilets and water, poor information and confusion over what expenses travellers could be reimbursed for.
The report said: "The problems at Gatwick at Christmas Eve should be a wake-up call for airports across the UK to get on top of operational resilience issues.
"Disruption, of whatever nature, should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first."
The report called for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to bring forward proposals for improving access to information for passengers on their rights during disruption.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: "Passengers need accurate and consistent information, must be able to identify who is in charge during periods of disruption, and should have ready access to toilets and drinking water.
"If our largest airports cannot demonstrate they can look after passengers' interests in this way then the CAA must act."
"It was clear from evidence to this inquiry that there is considerable scope for airlines to ensure passengers are far better informed about their rights when flights are delayed or cancelled and how to enforce these rights."
Shadow aviation minister Gordon Marsden said: "It's clear from this report that we need a step change to ensure passengers are made the priority in air travel.
"Despite the efforts of individual staff, management failures left passengers in the dark over the fate of their flights and compensation.
"The Government must be far more proactive in improving passenger experience."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: "Passengers rightly expect to be kept informed during circumstances such as those at Gatwick this winter, and it is important that the airport carefully considers these recommendations and takes the necessary steps to increase the resilience of the airport to future flooding and heavy rainfall.
"Other airports should also learn lessons from this report."
Police officers were forced to step in to calm passengers at the West Sussex airport in December after flooding caused by winter storms caused a power outage at the North Terminal.