Thursday, December 28, 2006

Regional Airports Work!

Looking back through the archives, two opinions emerge about airports in the UK: Heathrow sucks and Birmingham wucks! And how this came clear just before Christmas! We had booked a few days in Paris, buying cheap tickets on Air France from BHX to CDG (that's Birmingham International to Paris Charles de Gaulle, now you understand why airports have three letter acronyms!)

For several days the London-centric media ranted on about how many flights were canceled at Heathrow. These were mostly flights that could be substituted by rail journeys, including all domestic flights as well as Paris and Brussels. There is a gross falacy about such decision making in that most people who don't live near Heathrow use it as a hub, flying, for example, from Newcastle to Heathrow to Bermuda. Heathrow has nothing material to add to the journey except to provide a means for flying from Newcastle to Bermuda. Substituting a rail journey from Newcastle to Heathrow doesn't make any sense at all if your final destination is on another continent and the plane isn't going to wait!

We read the media reports with interest, noting that BHX reported few delays and even fewer cancelations. When it came our turn, our Air France flight, the second of six daily scheduled flights, left on time and arrived in Paris ahead of schedule with about 20% of the seats unfilled on the Friday before Christmas (according to the media the busiest day of the season). Meantime at Heathrow passengers had been living for several days in marquees supplied with free coffee and blankets for their trouble. Approximately 110 miles away from BHX!

The conclusion is reasonable: use your regional airport whenever you can but check first that your airport of choice has the latest navigation equipment. Nearby Coventry was closed for several days and all their passengers were transfered to BHX.