BA passenger numbers collapse

BA check in

It hasn't been a good start to the year for British Airways, once the self-appointed "World's Favourite Airline". Surging growth on the domestic railways and a 21 per cent increase on Eurostar following the opening of the high speed route has eroded BA's passenger figures. Now even their pilots are trying to strike.

But the real disaster was of course the 'opening' of T5 with the naive belief that passengers might still want to travel with BA even if one in 34 of the bags that were reluctantly submitted to their care were lost in the bowels of the new terminal. Oddly enough people are deserting the British flagship in droves: BA's figures fell 7.9% in April 2008 compared with a year previously. What's more the number of passengers per plane has been falling - by 5.1 % over the year - undermining the industry's pretend 'efficiency' figures, which rely on cramming more and more people into aircraft to reduce their per passenger emissions.

Could this be why they've taken to plastering London with surreal adverts which show famous landmarks dominated by aircraft apparatus  - including Big Ben transformed into a control tower. Is BA so crazy that they haven't spotted that this is just like waving a red flag in front of the hordes of residents who'd happily trade BA's bankruptcy for a decent night's sleep without the red-eye from Dallas soaring overhead...

Expansion: just say NO!

Make a NOise!

As anyone who reads right-of-centre papers will tell you, the coalition against airport expansion is getting broader all the time. West Londoners sick of the roar of planes overhead; environmentalists worried about global warming (13% of the UK's climate impact and counting); residents of Sipson who'd rather their village wasn't bulldozed - these days it seems like everyone with half a brain is up in arms over BAA's plans for Heathrow. This is just as it should be - expanding Heathrow (or any airport) while trying to tackle climate change is complete and utter madness.

So what to do with this unlikely coalition? Well much as they'd all have been welcome to join us on the Commons roof, it might have been a bit crowded. A more practical solution is the 'Make a NOise!' rally on the 31st of May at Heathrow, which brings everyone who opposes the third runway together to, um, make a noise about it.

Breaking (BAA) up is hard to do


Another day, another blow for BAA. After months of speculation, the Competition Commission has indicated that BAA might have to sell off Gatwick to break up their monopoly over London's airports. While the papers are taking great delight in kicking BAA while it's down, I'm getting worried. Could splitting up the monopoly lead to more airport expansion?

According to the Evening Standard, the Commission condemned "A 'short-term and reactive' approach to airport expansion. Major decisions about infrastructure have 'generally been too late to meet demand'." If that wasn't enough to worry you, try this accusation: "BAA managers have also too easily given commitments not to expand further at an airport and abdicated responsibility to government for strategic planning."

Poisoned chalice: best job in Britain


Poisoned chalice

Here's a poisoned chalice if ever there was one: BAA are looking for a pair of mugs to take on the roles of 'Heads of Corporate Responsibility' at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Quite apart from being utterly lacking in any kind of scruples, prospective candidates will also need to be profoundly stupid – BAA is one of the most hated companies in the whole of Britain, and the job entails becoming the smiling face of this celebrated nadir of corporate public relations.

The advert for the post gives a taste of the sort of unsavoury activities that lie in store for the successful applicant. Opening with the line "At BAA, we believe that it's possible for the aviation industry to grow sustainably" – a view that is fundamentally at odds with the conclusions of the UK's best climate scientists – the advert goes on to explain that "whilst representing BAA at external meetings with the local community… you will be the face of our corporate responsibility affairs, and a source of expertise to all affected parties and stakeholders." 'Expertise' here means spin, gloss and lies; 'affected parties' means victims, like the millions of Londoners about to gain noisy flight paths over their homes and schools; and 'stakeholders' include the 2,000 villagers who will be forcibly evicted to make way for the third runway. These terms are probably not meant to encompass the 160,000 people already dying because of climate change each year, or the nations of Bangladesh and Tuvalu which are soon to disappear forever under the rising sea; but they should.

Where's Kelly?

Ruth Kelly with closed eyes

Transport minister, Ruth Kelly, is often hob-nobbing with aviation bosses. Just days before the start of the T5 fiasco she was drinking champagne at a special BAA party. The 2,000 residents who will be evicted if a third runway gets the go-ahead, on the other hand, haven't had sight nor sound of her. I wonder why?

Fed up with being fobbed off by the Minister, angry West Londoners have launched a 'Find Ruth Kelly' campaign. Bryan Sobey, 78, a resident of Sipson for more than 45 years told the Sunday Times, "We have asked Ruth Kelly to see us, but she hasn't come here."

Why would she? I mean, she only wants to bulldoze their homes - it's not like she could go and show a bit of empathy. Menanwhile, the Sunday Times's investigation into Heathrow's expansion plans continues with fresh revelations that a 'crash landing zone' for the proposed third runway would overlap with a junction of the M25. Hmm...

More commotion in the House of Commons

Adding Capacity at Heathrow

Has the Minister bitten off more than he can chew? Beleagured Jim Fitzpatrick, already under fire for letting BA and BAA cock up the opening of Terminal 5, was attacked by MPs during a Commons debate on the third runway.

The debate has many classic moments, but can you top this for Parliamentary panto:

Jim Fitzpatrick: ...despite the criticisms of some, I am firmly of the view that this consultation — albeit on a subject that many feel passionately about — has been conducted in an exemplary manner.

Tories are for turning

Laughing stock

Breaking news from the boys in blue: the Tory leadership have edged closer to a sensible policy on airport expansion, declaring yesterday that the economic and environmental case had not been made for the third runway at Heathrow.

Shadow aviation secretary Theresa Villiers told the Evening Standard that "The Government is set on building a third runway regardless of whether key economic and environmental questions are answered. However, they have failed to make the case."

Flying Matters: nah nah nah nah nah!


While everyone has been laughing at BA boss Willie Walsh and his unfortunate boasting about T5 moments before it all went tits-up, Flying Matters campaigner Davy Lewy was running his mouth off about the glory of T5.

In an interview with the Toronto Star just before it all went wrong, Lewy got carried away, telling the journo that we should "[R]ejoice that as of today, with the launch of Terminal 5, the chances of losing your luggage have been greatly reduced."

Ha ha ha! I hope that's some consolation to the thousands who ain't flying anywhere, thanks to BA and BAA's failure to fix the baggage handling system in time for the big day...

Exposed: BAA are hardcore eco-nutters

T5 Passenger

Who'd have thunk it? For years we've been fighting BAA, convinced by their public image of being anti-environment and pro-expansion. Then, just as we were settling in for the long term, they betray us all, revealing a serious eco-streak.

For all our antics, Plane Stupid's greatest impact on emissions was grounding a couple of planes at Nottingham East Midlands Airport back in 2006. This pales in comparision to BAA, who have been systematically monkey-wrenching Terminal 5. They're doing an awesome job - so far grounding over two hundred planes and stranding countless thousands of passengers, preventing them jetting about in an irresponsible manner.

Just think of all those emissions being stopped at source! Of course, as Schnews pointed out this week, all these cock-ups will be solved soon enough and the airports and airlines can get on with earning some serious bucks. But screwing up what should have been the biggest pro-expansion love-in casts a shadow over their ability to handle a bigger airport - and for that, we tip our hat. Trebles all round, gents!

From our own correspondent: Amsterdam's seventh runway

Schipol airport occupation

While activists and residents across West London gear up for the mother of all battles over Heathrow's third runway, across the Channel dutch environmentalists are trying to block Schiphol's seventh! In an arms race to rival the cold war, the three main airports - Heathrow, Schiphol and Frankfurt - are all competing to out-expand each other.

Schipol may have six runways, but it carries 32% less passenger traffic, making it the twelth biggest international airport. Unlike Heathrow, which got privatised a while back, Schiphol is still owned by the Dutch government. Of course, like all governments, the Dutch seem to think that climate change doesn't apply to airports, and are plans to make Schiphol twice as big.

The decision on expansion is being taken on the 27th of March (this Thursday) - coincidentally the same day T5 opens and we pop down and flash mob it. Rest assured that campaigners won't go down without a fight - activists from across the Netherlands have already been taking action, including a runway invasion back in 2006. Watch the skies...