/ Travel & Leisure

Heathrow cancels flights, but how’s the customer service?

Having spent 24 hours at a snowed-in Luton airport some years ago, I’m all too familiar with the chaos when snow hits the runways. So, as Heathrow cancels flights due to snow, how’s its customer service holding up?

Anyone getting a sense of déjà vu? It was about this time last year that Britain’s airports ground to a near halt due to snowfall. And now Heathrow has cancelled hundreds of flights following a weekend of snow and icy weather conditions.

We typically associate snow with Christmas time – not sure why as I can’t recall the last white Christmas we had – but it seems to catch us off guard when it falls in January and February.

Flaky airport customer service

So painful was my experience of being trapped in Luton airport, it’s put me off using this airport again. This was largely due to my particular circumstances. Travelling from Southampton to Luton to save £50 on a flight seemed like a good idea at the time, but after the snow hit the fan I deeply regretted not being close to home.

I arrived on a crisp bright Tuesday morning – little did I know I wouldn’t leave the runway for Madrid until Wednesday afternoon.

I remember being really surprised at the airport staff heading out for the evening at around 11pm, wishing us the best of luck as we prepared to camp out on the floor overnight. There were airport security staff and the police on hand, but I was surprised to see so few (if any) airline staff on hand to help those who might need it.

Free meal and refreshments

I wasn’t very hot on my consumer rights back then, but I now realise that I should have been offered a free meal and refreshments. You’re also entitled to two free phone calls, faxes or emails and free hotel accommodation and transfers if an overnight stay is required.

The backlog for flights to Madrid was huge and they offered us Paris as a compromise. It was either that or a two- to three-day wait before being able to travel to Madrid, by which time our short break would have been up!

Heathrow cancels flights due to snow

Now that I live in Surrey, with the convenience of Heathrow just 30 minutes away, I can’t imagine travelling further just to save a bit of money. If it saved me hundreds of pounds I would, but I don’t think £30-£50 is worth it for being stranded a little too far from home.

And I have a little soft spot for Heathrow, and get the sense that I’d be pretty well looked after if my flight was cancelled due to bad weather. So if you were stuck at Heathrow this weekend, or have been stuck in the past, I’m intrigued to know whether my hunch is correct. Or have the snow flakes gone to my head?