Buy loudhailers, lawmakers tell Britain's airports

LONDON (REUTERS) - Buy loudhailers, lawmakers told Britain's airports on Friday, one of several suggestions to mitigate the chaos that occurred at London's second busiest airport, Gatwick, when the power went down last Christmas Eve.

Gatwick was left with no flight information systems or check-in facilities on Dec. 24, 2013, after flooding caused some electrical systems to fail.

Passengers camped on the floor for hours and complained they received little information from staff. With one functioning toilet and limited access to drinking water, police had to be deployed to maintain order.

Britain's parliamentary transport committee said after an investigation into the disruption that Gatwick and the country's busiest airport, Heathrow, must rethink contingency plans to look after passengers, keep them informed and ensure access to toilets and drinking water.

Some aspects of contingency planning would be "relatively straightfoward" to put right, the committee said in a report.

"For example, when electronic systems go down, airports should have loudspeakers (hailers) available so that staff can communicate with large groups of passengers," it said.

Airports and airlines should also be clearer on when flights should be cancelled and agree in advance over how to reclaim the cost of looking after passengers during a disruption, it said.

More than 11,000 passengers were affected by the 72 out of 260 flights that were cancelled.

"In so far as any information appeared to be available, it came from mobile telephone conversations passengers were making with people outside the airport," one passenger was quoted as saying.

As part of its own review, Gatwick plans to introduce a "passenger captain" role to take responsibility for taking care of passengers and has set aside 30 million pounds (S$63 million) to make improvements.

The airport, which is owned by a group of international investment funds ultimately controlled by funds managed by a unit of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), has been shortlisted for a new runway for London, one of the world's busiest transportation hubs.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.