By Sam Lister, Parliamentary Correspondent
BRISTOL Airport must draw up emergency plans to look after stranded customers when severe weather conditions hit, a powerful parliamentary committee has recommended.
Three years of harsh winters have caused major travel chaos for passengers flying to and from UK airports with Bristol International among those hit by flight disruption.
MPs on the Commons transport committee launched a probe in the wake of the last cold snap to hit the country to find ways of preventing a repeat of the problems that hit the nation’s travellers.
They have called for all airports to be forced to put in place “passenger welfare plans” to ensure they are properly looked after during flight cancellations or temporary airport closures.
But MPs believe that the airports should be able to reclaim the cost of supporting stranded passengers directly from the airlines. Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman said: “Every airport operator must now be pushed to plan properly for bad weather so that people are not left stranded and without even basic supplies in airport terminals for days on end. We believe airport managers must develop effective passenger welfare plans.”
The committee also looked at the problems severe weather caused across the rest of the transport network, including rail and roads.
It criticises the rail industry for not doing enough to look after the interests of passengers during periods of disruption, accusing it of hiding behind privatisation as an excuse for why it cannot provide accurate information about delays and cancellations. MPs said they were “attracted” by the idea of using regional control centres to take charge of giving passengers up-to-the-minute information about disruption and has called on the Government to investigate the proposals.
Ms Ellman added: “A culture change in the rail industry is needed to ensure that passengers are looked after during periods of disruption.
“In future, any failure to provide information about service disruption during severe weather should cost the firms responsible money.
“The strategic salt arrangement introduced a year ago clearly kept many main roads open last December. The Highways Agency and police forces must however work to manage blockages on the strategic road network more pro-actively, making greater use of roadside and in-car information systems to warn motorists about poor conditions and disruption.”
A Bristol Airport spokeswoman said: “Bristol Airport works closely with the airlines during any periods of disruption to reduce the impact for customers.
“During major flight disruptions Bristol Airport and the airlines, already have in place a delay and disruption plan. The plan includes providing activity packs for children, light refreshments or meal vouchers, travel cot and blankets when necessary. In extreme circumstances we liaise with the airline and assist with hotel accommodation information.
“During the last period of snow disruption Bristol Airport closed for only a few hours and the contingency plans were used during this time.
“We also advise customers via the website and if applicable, not to leave home without checking with their airline first”.