Gatwick, the UK’s second-busiest airport, delivered a highly unwelcome Christmas gift to many of its passengers – and presumably also to its investor consortium, led by Global Infrastructure Partners.
The airport found itself unable to cope when the nearby River Mole burst its banks on Christmas Eve after a period of relentless rainfall in the south-east of England. The subsequent floods knocked out power in the airport’s north terminal meaning that check-in facilities were disabled and half of the terminal’s scheduled flights that day cancelled.
Jason Holt, head of budget airline easyJet’s Gatwick operation, described the scenes as “Biblical” with reports that some passengers had become hostile, leading police to intervene. Accusations were also made that there were not enough staff or vehicles to enable a smooth transfer of passengers from the north to the south terminal.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate apologised to passengers, conceded that errors were made, and admitted that the airport needed to “regain the trust” of its passengers.
This is the same Stewart Wingate who, in February 2013, called for a transfer of flights in the winter months from Heathrow to Gatwick and Stansted after Heathrow had struggled to cope with last year’s heavy snowfall.
It only goes to show that, ultimately, no-one can beat the British weather.