Risking seizure of some of its aircraft, Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic said yesterday it would not pay any airport fees at Heathrow until the end of March, citing mismanagement by airport operator BAA Ltd, after the heavy snowfall.
The long-haul airline, 51-per cent owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group and 49 per cent by Singapore Airlines, is the latest carrier to voice its displeasure over the way BAA, owned by Spain's Ferrovial SA, handled the snowfall in December.
The airline said it would not pay landing and parking charges due from 1 January until it saw the results of an internal inquiry into the disruption caused by heavy snow.
All planes at Heathrow and Gatwick were grounded on 18 December after several inches of snowfall and temperatures falling to less than zero. Moreover, Heathrow's second runway was closed until 21 December, necessitating payments for thousands of passengers who had to be accommodated and rebooked by airlines.
Tens of thousands of passengers were grounded following the BAA-owned Heathrow airport grinding to a halt for several days before Christmas as heavy snowfall and freezing conditions iced up the runways and jet stands.
Financial Times quoted Virgin's chief executive Steve Ridgway, saying the company had told BAA, that it was going to hold back some of the payment that it owed.