Don Langford, who heads American Airlines’ customer service department, has used the sharpest language yet in criticizing London’s Heathrow Airport. Langford called Heathrow “a bit of a dump” and noted that overcrowding was becoming a serious problem, as this major European hub “seams have burst.” Langford went ever further, noting that Heathrow has become the “worst” European airport that American Airlines flies to. The American executive pointed to some of the less than appealing aesthetic characteristics of the London hub as well, such as duct tape on the floor, missing light bulbs and problems with the check-in area, all of which are a result of a lack of proper investment in the airport, according to Langford. Yet overcrowding remains the main problem and Langford compared the situation at Heathrow to when one tries to fill a five pound bag with 10 pounds of sugar.
BAA, the privately-owned firm that operates Heathrow, as well as the majority of UK airports, has tried to defend its position, especially against the sharp American criticism, noting that it plans to invest £4 billion over the course of five years, in order to improve the hub. Yet the wave of customer and airline complaints against Heathrow has led the British Competition Commission to consider breaking BAA’s near stranglehold on UK airports and it seems likely that the commission will ultimately go this route. Even Heathrow’s former head, Tony Douglas, went on the record last year stating that the situation at the airport had become “unacceptable.”
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