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New Year nightmare: who cares?
January 12, 2011 12:06

New Year holidays 2010 - 2011 thousands of Russians were fatally flawed after enormous iced rain on December, 26, 2010 which made air services impossible or very hard. Iced wires of electrical lines were breaking under their own weight; that made Domodedovo airport dead for some time. Anti-icing fluid stock run out in Sheremetyevo like smoke.

All the Moscow and Moscow Region covered with rain crust stayed put, several cities in Moscow Region (100, 000 people inhabitants!) lost power. Little by little trains failures in electric supply were eliminated, but drama in the first-rate Moscow international airports Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo was going on till the January, 30 according to official optimistic sources. Thousands of people stuck in the airports, in the situation of information gap, overcrowding and extremely high prices for food and drinks ( prices were put up 10 times ). Representatives of air carriers did not provide enough information and it was absolutely unclear, how to get material and moral compensation for airport holidays. Some people blame the airports, others - air carriers, the rest of - thins it was force majeure and don't hope to get anything for obvious damage.

Domodedovo airport canceled more than 260 flights for those three days (usually it serves 700 ones a day). 25, 000 passengers crowded together in the airport. Sheremetyevo airport didn't provide any statistics, but the problem is imaginable on the Aeroflot's example: 70% of passengers flow of Sheremetyevo belongs to this air carrier. 212 Aeroflot flights were canceled in the period of 25 - 29 December, 358 ones were delayed (Aeroflot makes 100 - 150 flights a day from Sheremetyevo). 25, 000 passengers stuck in the airport. Both airports got back into schedule on the December, 30, but consequences of that happened after iced rain are lasting until now.

Claims for moral and financial damage unexampled for Russia can be made against both airports. It is a question of tens millions rubles. The lawyers think that the situation was not force majeure, and passengers can hope to get compensation for both material and moral damage. It has already become known that Aeroflot will spend $ 20 millions for compensations and Transaero - 100 millions rubles.

Why is the situation not a force majeure instead of really enormous weather? Collapse could be avoided if some measures were taken in time. Alexander Pleshakov, chairman of the board of management of Transaero air carrier says the main mistake of Domodedovo managers in the in the circumstances concerned after the failure in electricity supply is that they did not close the terminal and did not inform all the passengers that they should not go to the airport. Crowds of them came already after emergency. In response, the airport representative contradicts that the airport isn't entitled to close terminals. Both are not far wrong, but is somebody took the responsibility, the sums of claims could be not so large.

Coverage to Aeroflot and Sheremetyevo collision was given in the blog of Mikhail Vasilenko, Sheremetyevo CEO. Aeroflot air carrier serves its flights by itself, and buys anti-icing fluid stock in as well. The fluid was over at 25th January night, but the mid-level managers tried to hide this fact. It looks like irresponsibility and seems that it is clear, who's fault it is. But the anti-icing fluid stock was over so soon not because of managers' responsibility only. The problem was that the enormous rain was turning aircrafts into big icicles in a literal sense:

All in all, nobody could anticipate how serious the situation would be. Everybody including airport top management hoped that things could turn better, but New Year miracle did not happen. Thickness of rain crust reached 5 cm, what is some times over the norm. Nobody could prognose such flow gain. From another hand, it was possible to have a bigger stock... Happily, the airports and air carriers seem to be solving problems instead of looking for hang-dogs. The incident has detected disadvantages in the transport legislation. The deficiencies are also being corrected.

Nevertheless, ice rain and all it's consequences aren't so serious like floods in Germany and Australia.


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