London, UK: London's Heathrow (LHR) airport has earned the dubious distinction of being named as the worst performing among 27 European airports in a survey done by the Association of European Airlines. According to the survey, the main reason for the bottom-of-the-list ranking for LHR was the disappointing statistic that 50 per cent of flights, in the period January to March, that arrived or left Heathrow were late by at least 15 minutes.
The survey found that 15 per cent of delays was caused by air traffic control, which is already operating at full capacity. Another 11 per cent of delays, it said, were caused by the handling or loading of each plane. Its recently inaugurated Terminal 5, built at a cost of over four billion pounds, experienced a disastrous début and has done little to ease congestion, according to critics.
Currently the average delay a passenger can expect at Heathrow Airport is almost 47 minutes.
Heathrow operator, BAA, attributed the flight delays to lack of runways. Airport spokesmen were quoted as saying that Heathrow's two runways were operating at capacity, which meant that even small events such as adverse weather, could cause major delays and disruptions. They said that other airports, which had enough spare runway capacity did not suffer these handicaps.
This is for the fourth year in a row that Heathrow has managed a find a spot amongst Europe's worst five airports.
There are proposals to build a third runway and a sixth terminal over the coming decade at Heathrow. This has been vigorously challenged by opponents who claim that with an already overloaded airport, adding more flights will only compound the problem.