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The CAA is to be given greater powers to force Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to prepare better for events like severe winters following the fiasco in December.
Transport secretary Philip Hammond has pledged to update regulations covering the three London airports in the next parliamentary session.
Hammond is changing rules governing the airports which currently stipulate a review of their operations every five years. The review is mainly concerned with setting landing fees, but also specifies things like maximum security queuing times and preparation for severe weather.
Hammond will remove the five year rule and give the CAA powers to do this at will.
“The proposal is that we will be able to operate a regular scheme that is much more like OFCOM or OFGEM so that we can alter their licence at any time,” said a CAA spokesman. “That could mean buying snow ploughs and if you don’t use them properly, there would be a penalty.”
The current regulations were introduced 26 years ago when BAA, the operator of Heathrow and Stansted, was in government ownership.
In a written statement, Hammond said: “Reforming the framework for airport economic regulation will help improve the quality of service that passengers receive at designated airports and contribute positively to economic growth.”
Travellers may have to endure more delays next winter, however, as the next parliamentary session runs from May 12 this year to April 13 2012, meaning that extended powers will not be granted to the CAA in time for any poor weather.