AS if Heathrow did not have trouble enough at the moment with the threat of mass demonstrations by environmental protestors, it was told yesterday by the director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that it is providing “embarrassingly low service levels”.

Giovani Bisignani said that Heathrow's owner BAA was “scrimping on providing sufficient staff and equipment to clear security queues”. He claimed that “unique screening policies inconvenience passengers with no improvement in security”. A few hours earlier Kitty Usher, a new minister at Britain's Treasury, said that the dire state of London's main airport may put business travellers off coming to London. The next nine months, before the opening of Terminal 5, are going to be extremely uncomfortable ones for travellers passing through Heathrow which is presently trying to handle far more traffic than it was designed for. Even so, the problems seem to be everywhere, including baggage handling and immigration controls. The Brazilian footballer Alex, who believed he had come to London to sign for Chelsea, took a plane back to Rio rather than endure more of the four-hour immigration hassle he had been subjected to at Heathrow. In the midst of this chaos Heathrow's owners, the Spanish company Ferrovial, announced that its airport division had made 767 million euros pre-tax profits in the first half of this year. There are rumours that Ferrovial plans to sell Gatwick which it also owns. Might it not be better to sell Heathrow if a buyer could be found?


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