By Peter Woodman
Passengers must expect flight cancellations at Britain's busiest airport if there is bad weather this winter, MPs have been told.
Heathrow is running at full capacity and cancellations would be "the most effective way" of dealing with inclement weather, the west London airport's airside operations director Derek Provan said.
He was appearing before the House of Commons Transport Committee which is taking evidence on transport's ability to deal with bad winter conditions.
Moving flights from Heathrow to Gatwick discussed
Gatwick airport's corporate affairs director James Colman told the committee the West Sussex airport was keen to discuss flights being moved from Heathrow to Gatwick in the event of severe weather.
He added that Gatwick had "not had significant joy" in progressing this idea but that the airport 's chiefs were "very happy to look at how we might be able to do things differently".
But British Airways' operations director Andy Lord said that BA was open to looking at the feasibility of the Gatwick suggestion but that the reality was "somewhat different".
He added that some BA customers having got to Gatwick would still need to get to Heathrow to make their connections.
The committee's chairman Louise Ellman asked the aviation bosses if they could guarantee that there will be no closed information desks in the event of bad weather. She said closed desks had been a feature of the last winter.
Every effort will be made to look after passengers
Mr Lord said: "I can't guarantee that (that there will be no closed desks). There will be, on occasions, desks that won't have people on them."
Mr Colman said he, too, could not guarantee that every help desk would be manned.
Mr Provan said that every effort would be made to look after passengers as well as possible if the weather turned particularly bad.
British Air Transport Association chief executive Simon Buck told the committee that while Heathrow axed 27 per cent of flights in bad weather between January 18 and 21 this year, the cancellation rate at Paris was 40 per cent.
And there was also disruption at other major European airports.
Heathrow and Gatwick coped with St Jude storm
He went on: "Inevitably there will be disruption at Heathrow if there are problems elsewhere."
Both the Heathrow and Gatwick chiefs told MPs they believed they had coped well with last month's St Jude's storm which battered Britain.
Network Rail' s London and south east England area managing director Dave Ward told the committee said that the decision to not run early-morning train services on the day of the St Jude's storm was "appropriate and fair".
He said there were 90mph winds and hundreds of trees had come down.
The cost to rail infrastructure was likely to be "in the region of £10 million" he added.