Snow in the UK certainly creates a picturesque landscape with house and roadways lost under a sheet of white. It’s the time when adults and kids frolic around shaping snowmen or stay indoors sitting beside the fire. It’s the time when most people swarm to the UK to experience its beauty and charm.
But at the same time, winters in the UK can be extreme, with snow paralyzing almost all forms of transportation. Snow storms and the resulting freezing conditions paralyze rail, roads, airports and schools, making it highly challenging for residents to cope with the weather.
The scenario at UK airports
Airports in the UK, unlike most other European destinations experiencing freezing conditions, tend to come to a complete standstill at the face of snowy conditions. Let’s take the example of Stockholm-Arlanda, the largest airport in Sweden. The airport, despite being one of the coldest places in the country, has never been shut because of snow. It’s surprising to see the airport is so efficient in fighting bad weather conditions. Although there may be a few delays, but the airport has never been shut due to snow.
UK airports are a far cry from that of Sweden’s when it comes to snow management. Keeping aside closures, airports in the UK tend to cancel or delay flights as soon as they experience even the lightest amount of snow. A few days back, British Airways cancelled thrity-six flights from London’s Heathrow Airport and also grounded few flights in December owing to snowy conditions across the UK. As such, a lit still remains to be done when it comes to managing and coping with snow in UK airports.
Snow and flight delays
According to UK’s air traffic controller Paul Beauchamp, snow on taxiways and runways takes time to be cleared, which in turn reduces the capacity of the airfield. Low visibility is another factor that grounds aircrafts in UK airports because airport authorities and airlines don’t like to jeopardize the lives of so many passengers. He also said that it might also become necessary to work with the aircrafts to comply with “flow regulations” for lowering the number of flights landing at the airport.
Some airports in the UK, for example Heathrow, operate at a high capacity. These airports often have tight flight schedules with thousands of people flying to and from the country. As such, even a small weather-related disruption can trigger a series of flight delays and cancellations. Snow-related flight delays are as common as bad weather disrupting normal commute of people.
Bad weather in the UK can bring about a physical slowdown of operations and force people to do their work in extremely harsh conditions. Simple tasks take much longer to perform, thus delaying flights’ take-off time. Bad weather also paralyzes the air traffic control system, and results in airplane saturation on the airfield. The skies are crowded even in ideal weather conditions, making flight delays very common. As such, it’s not uncommon to see flights getting delayed or cancelled owing to icy and snow runways, low visibility, slippery surfaces and strong winds.