Daniel Korski

The gates of hell

The gates of hell
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Some blogs get you the news from wizards of Wall Street, or the war-torn back alleys of Baghdad. But here at Coffee House we aim to capture a more, well, English experience: news and views from the gates of Gatwick Airport.

I'm stuck here, watching the diligent but lonely tractors fight against a mass of snow. Several inches of snow blighted London yesterday, while icy winds made matters worse.

Many flights have been cancelled and disappointed holiday-makers have had their Christmas plans put on ice - literally. Everywhere in the airport's soulless halls, amidst tacky tax-free offerings, you hear the same thing: why are the airport operators perennially unprepared for what more and more looks like an annual occurrence? When the snow has been cleared the crews have gone home. When the crews are in place the buses are gone. When the buses are ready the planes are not. And so on.

Information has, as always in these instances, been limited and communicated in the most garbled way possible. One Gatwick staff member tells you to check the screens another that they contain no up-to-date information. Passengers are herded, like lemmings, from hall to gate and back to the hall.

In the corner of Gate 45 one Englishman has had enough. In a manner more often seen in the sun-packed country he was hoping to visit, he was shouting, cursing and getting red in the face. The yellow-vested staff from Menzies and EasyJet didn't seem to be easing the situation: saying that the flight would depart, then cancelling it, then hinting that it may depart after all, before finally conceding that the flight was cancelled because EasyJet could not find a pilot. That was never going to go down well. Meanwhile my fellow passengers and I still wait for our plane. Godot has come and gone but nobody has yet seen Flight 8648.

With a cold, harsh, snow-filled winter likely to hit Britain, Gatwick owner Global Infrastructure Partners really ought to prepare the airport for the season, carriers need contingency plans, and Menzies, the ground handling agent, need to work out how to help stranded passengers. And I probably should plan to drive on my next holiday.