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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

Heathrow Working Through Backlog of Stranded Passengers; Interview With Steve Forbes

Aired December 22, 2010 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: A big gesture for a big crisis. BA's chief exec says he'll take no bonus.

Tonight Steve Forbes tells me the U.S. economy is disappointing. It could, though, be a lot worse.

And we roll out the welcome mat. Bill Marriott says the U.S. is treating visitors poorly.

I'm Richard Quest. We have an hour together. I mean business.

Good evening.

A cliche, perhaps, but the nightmare before Christmas for travelers and for BAA. Anger at the delays and the lack of communication. And tonight we interview the chief execs of BAA and Gatwick, London's two largest airports and ask them what they can learn from this mess.

We now begin as the backlog of stranded passengers starts to clear at Heathrow. The airport's operators chief exec says he won't be taking his annual bonus. BAA operates Heathrow who is facing fierce criticism for its handling of the conditions of snow. Around 400 flights canceled today. Some passengers have spent the past four nights at the airport waiting to travel.

Atika Shubert has spent the last, well, three or four days next to the North Runway at Heathrow Airport, in the cold.

First question, simple, do we know how much Colin Matthews the CEO's bonus was going to be?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the BAA won't give us any specific details. What we do know is the ballpark figure for his pay and bonus last year. That was about $1.5 million. That is excluding shares. So we kind of know about how much that amount should be this year. But what Colin Matthews told us is that basically he wants to focus all of his energy on getting those passengers back home before the holidays and try and repair Heathrow's tarnished image. Here's what he told us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLIN MATTHEWS, CEO, BAA: I'm responsible for Heathrow Airport. This is about passengers. Passengers have had a horrible experience in the last three or four days, therefore, I've decided not to take my bonus for 2010.

SHUBERT: How do you-is that going to be enough for people? From a lot of people they say, we just want to get home for Christmas.

MATTHEWS: That is what I'm focused on, 100 percent. That is the only thing I've been thinking about since last week when the weather came so cold and we started having those delays. And we haven't got everyone home yet. We have the airport fully operational today but just like after the volcanic ash crisis, it will take a couple of days for the airlines to get their networks fully functional again, because their aircraft are in the wrong place.

Some of the European airports are shut, so we can't go to all of the destinations. So, it will take a little while to get them fully functioning. And even then there is still a backlog of passengers who we really want to get home for Christmas.

SHUBERT: And how is the situation inside the terminal? A lot of people were complaining that it was almost like a refugee camp in the days before. What is it like now?

MATTHEWS: Well, last night we had half the number in the terminals that we did in the night before that, which was half the night before that. So we are making real progress. We've got a lot more hotel space around the airport so many people we have been able to put in facilities around about the airport. It is not ideal but it is a lot more comfortable. Terminals were not designed for sleeping in. Therefore we have been doing the best we possibly can to make passengers as comfortable as the can be in a very difficult situation.

SHUBERT: Now the weather reports are that it is going to get colder. There could be more snow. How is Heathrow-what are you doing to get Heathrow prepared to make sure this doesn't happen again?

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, we had to bring in extra people extra contractors over the weekend to help us cope. Of course, those are ready. And it is clear that we'll need to buy new equipment. I mean, the snow we had on the weekend, we hadn't seen before, but we have to plan on the assumption that we'll see it again. Therefore, we'll need new equipment, we'll need new people. And we'll purchase that as soon as we possibly can.

SHUBERT: You made and investment, I think, last time. Was it 500,000 pounds in this kind of equipment? Is there any kind of discussion yet of how much you are going to be investing n the future?

MATTHEWS: Listen, we are spending 1 billion pounds a year, improving Heathrow. We can afford to buy the ploughs that we need to clear snow. What has caught us out is not the fact that we didn't have the money to buy snow ploughs. What has caught us out was that the intensity of the snow was far higher than we have ever seen before. Well, maybe that is the only time. Perhaps we'll see it again. We'll have to be ready to cope with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHUBERT: Now as it is, Heathrow's runways are fully operational but only 70 percent of the flights are going ahead. That is because, as he mentioned in that interview, jets and crews still getting into place. But by tomorrow, Heathrow says, they should be back to normal and they are extending a lot of flights into the night so they can clear that backlog, Richard.

QUEST: Atika, buried in the back end of that interview there was a very sharp difference, I noticed, in Colin Matthews response to your question on future expenditure. All week Matthews has been saying we will get people on their way and we'll see what needs to be done. We'll have to look and see whether we need to buy more equipment. But tonight, he's telling you, we're buying more equipment, we'll make changes.

SHUBERT: Well, that is exactly it and there has been a lot of criticism, not just from passengers but from airlines themselves saying that Heathrow was not prepared. They didn't have enough equipment. There were reports that they didn't have enough de-icing fluid. He says that is not the case. But he wants to emphasize that whatever needs to be bought, whether it is snow ploughs, or more de-icing equipment, whatever it is, it will be bought to make sure this does not happen again.

The question is, are they going to be ready if at the end of this week, for example, there is more snow and ice?

QUEST: Atika Shubert, who is at Heathrow Airport in London. Incidentally, Heathrow is the world's busiest international airport. It is not the world's busiest airport. That honor goes to Atlanta, in Georgia, in the United States. Beijing is No. 3. But Heathrow is the world's busiest in more international passengers than anywhere else.

(DESK BELL CHIMES)

The other major airport in the U.K., London Gatwick had already upgraded its snow clearing kit (ph), before the weekend's cold snap. Gatwick had a bad snowstorm in early December. It plowed $12 million into new snow removal equipment, after the airport effectively fell over, on that occasion.

On the tarmac at Gatwick, Jim Boulden met Gatwick's chief exec.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Lessons learned, that sums up Gatwick Airport's CEO Stewart Wingate's rational for spending $12 million on new snow removal equipment.

STEWART WINGATE, CEO, GATWICK AIRPORT: While this is the first, first year for new ownership for Gatwick Airport. We are owned by GIP, Global Infrastructure Partners. And we are investing over 8 million pounds in additional snow removing equipment. We have had three snow events now, first year already. And we have decided enough is enough

BOULDEN: Gatwick Airport, south of London, suffered heavily during a big snow storm in early December. Passengers were left stranded for days. So, Gatwick's board agreed to spend the extra money. When the snow hit again this past weekend, some of the new equipment was already in use.

WINGATE: We're going to more than double the size of our snow moving equipment. Already we've taken receipt of our first new vehicles, coming in from Zurich Airport.

BOULDEN (On camera): To put it in perspective, in early December Gatwick had to remove 150,000 tons of snow. And a further 40,000 tons this past weekend.

(Voice over): And while Gatwick was able to accommodate extra flights on Tuesday, it's nearest competitor, Heathrow, has been almost crippled by this week's snow. It is run by BAA, which was forced by U.K. competition authorities to sell Gatwick, whose new owners are keen to make a point.

WINGATE: We are competing. There is no question of that. We're in separate ownership and these are some of the benefits of separate ownership of airports in London.

BOULDEN: Then again, London hardly ever gets big snowfalls.

WINGATE: Let's hope it doesn't snow for the next 20 years, they just gather dust.

BOULDEN (on camera): You are OK with that?

WINGATE: We are absolutely OK with that. Our passengers cannot go through this again. That is why we have acted very fast.

BOULDEN (voice over): So, let it snow, the world's busiest single- runway airport will soon have as much equipment to remove the white stuff as Oslo Airport. Jim Boulden, CNN, at Gatwick Airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Never let it be said that the free enterprise market economy doesn't actually work in some cases.

Things are looking a touch more festive in the world's largest capitalist economy, the United States. Can they keep it going? In a moment, one of the biggest names in business and new media, Steve Forbes tells us why the U.S. isn't on safe ground, just yet.

(DESK BELL CHIMES)

QUEST: Now the U.S. economy is growing faster than we first thought. The U.S. government says it grew at a rate of 2.6 percent in the three months to September. That is Q3 growth. And the U.S. of course, is doing everything it can to keep that number high. QE2 is now in force, QE2, $600 billion is being spent by the U.S. Fed's money printing plan.

And then, of course, President Obama has agreed his tax plan with the Republicans in Congress, $858 billion. No deficit reduction, but the country's biggest stimulus project, yet. The question, of course, whether QE2, the tax plan, the 2.6 percent growth. Is it enough to keep business growing into next year. I asked the president and chief exec of "Forbes", Steve Forbes, what he made of 2.6?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE FORBES, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT, CEO, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: Well, the fourth quarter, I think, is stronger than the third quarter. Christmas sales still have been pretty good, and going into the new year, I think you are going to see growth rates and the U.S. economy, 3.5 percent or more, real growth. That is still disappointing. It is the slowest recovery from a recession we have ever had. But it is still better than going no place. So, better than the third quarter, but we could do even better if we remove some obstacles.

QUEST: When we look at the deal that was done, the political deal, to keep unemployment, but keep certain tax benefits for others. Was this a deal that was that was the right deal, do you believe? Or was too much given away? Because frankly, nothing was really done for the medium term deficit reduction.

FORBES: Well, if a deal had not been concocted you would have seen the economy take a real hit in the first quarter, because everyone's taxes would have gone up substantially. And this way we remove a major amount of uncertainty. So, I think going into the new year, that is out of the way, so that is why I think we will get that 3.5 percent, or so, real growth rate.

There will still be thunderous fireworks on Capitol Hill, in the U.S., in terms of Obama care. There is going to be real debate about pushing that back. And I think Republicans will win some victories there. There are going to be regulation debates, such as the recent attempt by our Federal Communications Commission to, in effect, regulate the Internet. That is going to be a hot issue next year. And then the tax code, happily there is a growing consensus, Richard, that we need to simplify this monstrosity. And I think that is going to help set the stage for a real simplification after 2012 in the U.S.

QUEST: But, but, still, as I look at it from Europe, where Germany is wearing a hair shirt. Prime Minister Cameron has become the Grim Reaper of deficit reduction. Greece, Ireland, every country in Europe. In the United States, you haven't even started to grasp this nettle yet?

FORBES: Well, I think the new Republican Congress in the House of Representatives, and their de facto majority in the Senate, because you have 21 Democrats in the Senate coming up for re-election in 2012, who know they are in political trouble-many of them-are you going to start to see a real push on that. But the big progress, Richard, is going to be on the state and local level in the U.S.. There, if you take the word "Greece" and translate it into American, you come up with words such as Illinois, California, New York, and who knows what counties and municipalities, and they are going to have to make substantial cutbacks.

QUEST: Right.

FORBES: We saw it in my home state of New Jersey, where the governor there got through a budget, a Republican governor, Chris Christi got through a budget through a Democrat legislature, a very liberal, or very left-wing, that was less than it was four years ago, in real terms, in any kind of terms. You are going to see that throughout the U.S. So it is starting here, too; the hair shirts.

QUEST: OK, finally, I see that you are planning a journal "Forbes Europe", next year. Why? I mean, all right, things are getting a bit better. You can see recovery. But this is by no means the-surely, Steve, it is by no means the environment upon which you want to be launching a new publication?

FORBES: Well, I think this is precisely the time. You start with the Internet and then you go to the printed word, is when things are looking their grimmest, that is when things start to turn around. And we want to be up and running when others are still trying to get their running shoes on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Steve Forbes, of "Forbes" magazine, talking to me earlier.

That GDP number in the U.S. didn't have much of a reaction on the Big Board and on the markets. You can see, up 16 points. Barely changed, 15,500 on the main market. I suspect, well, I don't know if I suspect, it is fairly obvious, isn't it? The festive season is taking its toll. People have other things on their mind, besides stocks and shares.

Look at the euro markets and you will see it is not just the snow that is thinner on the ground on Wednesday. Light trading across Europe, Frankfurt, Paris, closed after a choppy session. The FTSE lifted by computer chip designer Arms (ph) Holdings, up 9.1 percent. Bet you wish you had bought that yesterday. Reports Microsoft may release a version of Windows that will run on Arm chips.

The Bank of England remains split on rates. According to the latest minutes from the bank, one lone voice still stands out. On last night's program we spoke to the Monetary Policy Committee member Andrew Sentence, on his reasons for supporting a rate rise.

Well, today, it was confirmed that he voted-Andrew Sentence voted for a rate rise for the seventh month, after a small increase of a quarter of 1 percent, is what he wanted. There was one member of the committee who actually wanted to increase quantitative easing. Sentence was unable to sway the rest of the committee, which held rates steady for the 20th month in a row.

Here's a reminder of why Andrew Sentence believes this should change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW SENTENCE, MEMBER, BANK OF ENGLAND, MONETARY POLICY COMMITTEE: I think we have to recognize that we took the level of interest rates and the settings of monetary policy to some quite extreme settings. And that was quite right, in the situation we faced in mid-2009. But the quid pro quo of that argument is that as the economy improves-and it has improved- and as we get more information about how inflation is proceeding, we should be prepared to adjust the settings of policy. Not to hike interest rates, as people say, but to gradually move them so that they are less stimulative for the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Arguably he may have lost the vote. But there are more members of the Monetary Policy Committee, according to the minutes, at least, that now see the balance of risk shifting towards inflation.

In a moment, the man behind Marriott Hotels is talking tough about and to the U.S. government. Why Bill Marriott said it is time Homeland Security rolled out the red carpet, not put up the shutters to foreign visitors.

(DESK BELL CHIMES)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Forget the bad weather, foreign visitors to the United States often get a hard time, even when the sun shines. That is the charge that Bill Marriott is leveling at the U.S. government. Now, yes, when you hear the name Bill Marriott it is the same Marriott that is the chief exec of the global Marriott Hotel chain.

And he says that Homeland Security and the State Department need to learn to say, welcome to foreign tourists, more than they have. Because the country, the United States, is losing billions in lost revenues and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

If you join me over in the library, you will see exactly why. One of the big problems, he says, visitors and visas, long waits. In some cases countries from emerging markets still need visas. They are not part of the visa waiver program and they have to, of course, people have to turn up at the in-person interviews at the embassies and consulates around the world.

The countries that involve include India, Brazil, and China, three major countries for tomorrow's economy. That is a huge disincentive.

He also says that according, sites a story from Oxford Economics, in 10 years Marriott believes, the United States has lost 440,000 jobs and about $500 billion, in total, because visitors have stayed away. Bill Marriott puts it this way, a 10 percent annual increase in tourism could create 100,000 jobs.

But, of course, ultimately, there is plenty at stake here at the moment. Tourism in America accounts for about 1 in 16 workers, depending on your point of view, and exactly which matrix you use. If you total it up, tourism is worth $134 billion in goods and services. So, it is not surprising that Bill Marriott's message to me says he gets the threat of global economy moving forward, but he needs to ensure that the message is one of welcoming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MARRIOTT, CEO, MARRIOTT HOTELS: President Obama has said that he wants to double the number of exports in the next five years. And there is real low hanging fruit, here, in terms of international rivals in the United States. When we sell a bed in a room, in San Francisco, to a visitor from Shanghai, that is an export. And right now we are loosing market share around the world in our international travel rivals in the United States. We have lost 31 percent of market share in the last 10 years. And that is worth about 400,000 jobs and $500 billion worth of exports.

QUEST: Do you think that is because the U.S. is perceived to be particularly on an immigration point of view, when you arrive in the country, it is perceived to be unfriendly, it is perceived to be a hassle. And, now, it is perceived to be expensive.

MARRIOTT: Well, it is perceived to be difficult to-when you arrive here, because Homeland Security and the State Department need to step up their boarder hospitality. Need to do a better job of providing a little more accommodation for people coming into the country. It is a matter of sorting out the process, managing the process better, being a more welcoming nation.

But, you know, even a bigger problem for us is for the countries where people want to come here and they have to get a visa, the wait for visas is very long and you have to be interviewed in person in these countries around the world that do not have a visa waiver program. Particularly the fast-growing countries of India, Brazil and China, which are the three big motivators and travelers in the years ahead.

QUEST: So when you also get fees, like the Esther (ph) fee, that has been recently imposed. I now-look, I know it is not a fortune, it is less than $20, but it is the principle, isn't it? You are charging tourists to pay for your own promotion?

MARRIOTT: That's right. We are charging $14, $4 goes back to Homeland Security and $10 goes into this special fund, which industry will match. So it is not costing the government anything. It is just costing the travelers another $14 to come here. But we'll use this money for travel promotion around the world.

One of the reasons we have been losing market share is because we have not had a good global travel promotion program from the United States. The various states, as you know, all advertise and ask people to come to their states and their cities, but the government and the federal program has not been in existence. Other countries around the world spend millions of dollars attracting visitors, we don't spend any.

QUEST: Right. Let's talk, because Marriott is much more than the U.S. company and we have talked about that. You opened your first overseas hotel, a non-U.S. hotel, decades ago. Isn't that, Bill, honestly speaking, isn't the real growth for your company now, outside of the U.S., particularly in Asia?

MARRIOTT: Well, yes it is. Asia has a tremendous opportunity for us. We have 60 hotels now in China, we expect to double that number in the five years. We have 12 hotels in India, we expect to have 100 hotels in India in the next five years. And in Brazil we'll be adding 50 hotels in the next few years. So we are really pushing hard outside the United States, but we are still-80 percent of our rooms are within the United States and will continue to grow here as well.

QUEST: Finally, I was reading your blogs. Now, your first Marriott was in 1957, and it was $8 a room. By today's standards actually that was quite a bargain; $8 is roughly about $70 in today's money. So, you were perhaps under charging back in 1957. But, Bill, what do you most remember from that first hotel, those first guests, and those first days.

MARRIOTT: I remember it was a business we didn't understand. We didn't know anything about it. We were feeling our way. And we were competing with the roadside motels. We filled a 365 motor hotel, motor hotel in Washington, which was the biggest motor hotel in the United States at the time. And it became very successful and it was basically catering to people off the road. We had a drive-in check-in system and we'd look in the car and count the number of people and it was $8 for a room, and $1 extra for every person in the car. So we got up to $12 if we could fill the rooms with multiple occupancy.

QUEST: And you finish off your blog, every time, I'm reading it. You always finish off the same way, don't you?

MARRIOTT: I do. Thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Bill Marriott talking to me; 1957, and I did the calculation incidentally, at $8-if you go on the BLS Web site, from the U.S. government, that works out at $69 dollars in today's money, as I was saying. Which seems to me, frankly, quite a bargain back in 1957. I don't think you could stay in too many Marriott now for $69 a night.

All right. In a moment we are heading back to Heathrow Airport, where we have heard what the boss has to say about the disruption, we'll hear from the passengers. And also, we'll be at Newark, on the other side of the Atlantic, to hear what they're saying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. This is CNN. And here, we always have the news first.

So clear skies giving Europe's airports and railroads a fighting chance to clear the backlog of thousands of stranded passengers. Heathrow in London says up to 70 to 80 percent of its flights are getting out, although 400 were canceled on Wednesday. Frankfurt reports 1,400 flights. Charles de Gaulle in Paris says 75 percent of its flights are operating. The authorities caution it will take days before all the airports get back to a full operation.

In the Ivory Coast, a call for the international community to use force to remove the strongman, Lauren Gbagbo from power. The calls come from the man who would serve as prime minister for the country's would-be president. But Gbagbo says he's the legitimate president and is refusing to step down. Post-election violence has now killed dozens of people.

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve the arms control treaty known as the new START over the next few hours. The U.S. and Russian presidents agreed to the pact late spring in Prague. Republican leaders opposed the treaty, which would require the countries to cut their nuclear stockpiles to 1,450 warheads with 700 launchers.

President Barack Obama has signed a bill that will allow gays and lesbians to serge openly in the U.S. military. It repeals the "don't ask, don't tell" law that's been in place for 17 years. It will be several months before the new policy is implemented through all branches of the American military.

The travel chaos caused by the heavy snow in Northern Europe we know had knock-on effects far and wide. We've seen what it was like at Heathrow. But one of the most parts of -- or destinations for Heathrow, of course, is the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Maggie Lake is at Newark Airport in New Jersey, outside New York -- Maggie, well, I mean, obviously, there were knock-on effects there. But things seem to be getting back to normal.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are getting back to normal. But as you said, it's a slow process, Richard. The skies are clear. The planes are leaving to Europe, which is a huge relief. But, you know, we've been through the terminal all afternoon talking to passengers, a lot of them still very anxious. Many of them have been here for hours, some for days, trying to figure out if they're going to be able to get back home for the holidays.

Have a listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't go tonight, it's not looking good, to be honest. But we're on a flight tonight so we're (INAUDIBLE)...

LAKE: You are?

You are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LAKE: And you -- you've been told it's taking off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, yes.

LAKE: Have you had any luck today getting booked on a flight that's leaving?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I called Lufthansa directly in Germany. And they booked me on a flight on the 23rd, arriving on the 24th. However, given that all the flights are already over booked, the likelihood that I will be really on that plane I think is not very large. So my strategy will be, I will be checking in trying to get a -- a boarding pass tomorrow night, straight one at 23 hours and 69 minutes before the boarding opens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAKE: But, Richard, one of the problems it's when you're on holiday, you're stranded, you're here, you don't have much money left, as one of the passengers told us. One couple was separated from their children. They went away for a few days so their kids are back at home. They've had to scramble to get child care. So you've got all that stress layered on the fact that the holidays are approach.

And another thing is one of the common themes among everyone was the level of frustration once again at the lack of information. The staff here, the folks here are trying hard on the ground today to let people know what to do, where to go. But in many cases, when the flights were canceled, especially days ago, people didn't know who to call, how to rebook, where to go, when to come back.

So, you know, as one passenger said to me, you can't do anything about the weather, but there is something the airlines have to do to be able to handle these situations better -- Richard.

QUEST: Right. You and I need to talk about this now, Maggie, because I'm starting to come to the conclusion that there's nothing that can be done, that we are watching the sausages being made in real time. We are expecting people to give information they simply don't have.

LAKE: I don't know about that, Richard. I mean I -- I think that it true. We -- I spoke to the station manager here for Lufthansa. And it has to be said that the situation for passengers heading to Germany is a little better than, say, those who are trying to get to or connect through the U.K. Much more troublesome on that front.

He said he -- they were able to rebook people. They've been confident. So it's getting done.

The problem is when you're here and your flight is canceled, there's not enough staff on the ground. There's just not enough information. And if you say you're not going to be able to get book -- rebooked until this date or tell them access to online, where they could go...

QUEST: Oh...

LAKE: -- they would feel better.

QUEST: It...

LAKE: I mean one of the fellows is an IT manager. He said if I did this to clients, I would be fired. You know, so the -- I think that they can do better in terms of the communication. It certainly would reduce the stress level a lot. So I'm not sure I agree with you on that -- Richard.

QUEST: You and I...

LAKE: People are asking me where to go and who to talk to. That's never a good sign.

QUEST: I...

LAKE: (INAUDIBLE).

QUEST: I just think -- I just question whether or not, you know, 24 hour news networks like our own have raised expectations of a level of information that's simply not possible to offer up.

LAKE: Here's the thing, Richard. People who took matters into their own hands on their mobile phones, rebooked another flight themselves got it done. So their question is, if we can do it...

QUEST: All right...

LAKE: -- why can't the airline staff help us do it, too?

And that is a fair point, I think. So some of them -- including some of our own producers, have been able to re--- reschedule their flights. So it can be done. It's just that when they're standing here until 12:00 and then given a slip of paper saying try this number, I mean that's just not adequate.

QUEST: All right. All right. We'll -- we'll talk more about this.

You're on your way home.

Have a good Christmas, Maggie, if I don't speak to you tomorrow.

Maggie Lake, who is in New York.

You may have some thoughts on that -- are there unrealistic, unreasonable expectations these days, people just -- frankly, the information isn't there and they are trying to do it the best they can in moments of chaos and confusion.

Well, as always, it's CNN.com/quest is the e-mail address and it's @richardquest, which, of course, is the Twitter address, where you can -- can join in and -- and maybe give me your thoughts. I'm simply not sure that actually that it's possible to give that much more information than is already there.

We return to Heathrow Airport, where BAA says it's doing what it can now for stranded passengers. There are marquis to accommodate. There's people that are serving bacon and egg rolls, chocolate and hot drinks. It's an ordeal if you're stuck waiting.

Two passengers told us their story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any passengers on the 865, please put your hands up. Just stay with us a minute. We will be reporting and coming you. And please come forward if you're a standby passenger. Thank you.

REBECCA TUCCICH, STRANDED SINCE SUNDAY: It's very confusing on where you need to go, what time you need to go. This one person told meow, you only need four hours. Then another person is like oh, wait, you've got to wait a half hour until your gate is opened. So you think you're going but you're not. So it's been a struggle.

The airlines have been tied up constantly. My parents have had to call form me because I can't get through the U.K. line.

JOHN GRANT, FLYING TO BANGKOK VIA JORDAN: This particular flight flew out yesterday. And I do know that it's -- that today's flight is just (INAUDIBLE). What I don't know for sure is whether I've got a seat on the plane. And I haven't been able to check in online. So it's a matter of having to just to try and keep warm and wait until I can get more information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen...

TUCCICH:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- this is an announcement for Air Canada. Any passengers on the 865?

TUCCICH: Everyone seems to have their hope -- hopes high that they'll get out. And you can see that Heathrow is finally getting everything together. I think at first that they didn't handle it as well as they probably could have. But then again, I'm from Boston and we get feet -- we got four inches of snow last night and nothing got canceled. So, you know, we're kind of used to the weather.

GRANT: Their handling of the whole thing has been -- has been appalling. And this really is the -- the premier airport in the country. There are -- you know, I -- I think there needs to be serious questions about the -- the management of the airport.

This airport, with two runways, has only got 10 snow plows more than Gatwick, which has only got one runway. They clearly haven't -- they clearly haven't invested in the way that Gatwick has.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any passengers who might be late for the 855 or the 851.

TUCCICH: I've spent since Sunday, probably $1,500 about, maybe even more than that, with additional charges and -- for cabs and flights (ph). So who knows if I'll get reimbursed either?

GRANT: It is cold and damp and (INAUDIBLE) there -- there are at least (INAUDIBLE). There are -- there are some people (INAUDIBLE). But it seems -- it feels a fairly -- a fairly sort of a bleak place to arrive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: That's those who are stranded at Heathrow Airport.

Somebody who (INAUDIBLE), "future customer," who has already Tweeted me, just quickly -- I always -- I always mention the people who have Tweeted who agree with me.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: "future customer" says: "You're totally correct" -- of course -- "about information. People are now used to having info at hand."

No doubt some of you will join in and say you don't agree one word of that.

More Greek drama in a moment. A budget vote looms tonight. Thousands of commuters were sideswiped by a new transit strike.

We're in Greece, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: 2010 -- it's the year that many of the coming soon technologies finally made it to the shops, whether it was 3D glasses, the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy, or, indeed, of course, the cheaper, more nimble Amazon Kindle.

We've got an extra dimension in the living room with all these things, including 3-D televisions. We ditched the keyboard with the rise of the tablet and waved goodbye to the bookshelf. Amazon says its Kindle e-reader is its top selling item of the year.

Now, our journey into the digital world is happening so quickly, we can never be quite sure what the next big thing will be.

The online entrepreneur, Caterina Fake, told Maggie Lake that next year will bring us up and personal close online experience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAKE (voice-over): It was the year of Apple's tablet triumph and the rise of the Android -- the growing debates over privacy on the Internet and the limits of Internet freedom itself. Tech was never far from the headlines in 2010, and Caterina Fake predicts big changes ahead for 2011. Fake is the co-founder of photo sharing site, Flicker, and a new site, Hunch.

We met up with her at New York's Ace Hotel, a gathering place for tech savvy New Yorkers hard at work on the next big thing.

CATERINA FAKE, COFOUNDER, HUNCH: I think the next step for all of this is that we're going to take all of the information, all of the data, all of the participation in social media and use it for something. So that's the ideal scenario, that the Web gets personalized. I really think that 2011 is going to be the year of personalization.

I really think that this is an inevitable thing that's happening right now.

LAKE (on camera): Give me an example, for somebody who maybe doesn't understand what personalization means.

What -- what would that mean to me?

FAKE: Personalization is really you search for something online and it knows who you are. It knows your age. It knows your demographic. It knows your tastes. It knows your -- just your basic profile. It will be able to make decisions for you in advance of giving you results, knowing you, knowing your personality.

It should alert you that somebody that you know is nearby or if you're going -- looking for a flower shop or a post office or etc. Etc. It should know where you're located and it should tailor your results to that particular location.

The future will definitely have location awareness built into pretty much everything.

LAKE: As you're describing this, I can, on the one hand, sort of see how that would be great. But on the other hand, there's something about it that, frankly, freaks me out a little bit. You know, like I'm not sure about how I feel about somebody knowing...

FAKE: Well, right...

LAKE: -- all these things.

So is...

FAKE: And what...

LAKE: -- is control going to be an important part of that?

FAKE: That -- that is, I think, the most important part of that. The most important part of this is that you be able to see what data that you - - that are you giving to a system, that you are able to control it, that you can edit things, you can delete things. And I think that there will be and should be a similar power shift back to the user controlling all of their information, because people are just so aware now of all of these issues, of the corporations that are gathering all this information don't like it -- don't like it, feel uncomfortable with it and want to take it back.

LAKE: Facebook versus Google -- they've come out of this wave of -- of the Web or of our experience as these two huge forces out there.

Is that going to be something that gets more competitive in terms of them encroaching on each other's markets?

Is this sort of getting to be more of a battle of titans?

FAKE: Google is -- is trying to emphasize the social in a way that they haven't previously. That is because of Facebook. That is because of Twitter. They realize that this is a blind spot that they have.

Facebook has been incredibly responsive. I mean they're a man -- a fantastic and amazing company. The -- the agility which they are able to evolve.

Some pundits out there really think that Amazon is the dark horse here.

Google is fighting in the colonies. They're doing mobile. They're fighting Apple. They're doing -- they're -- they're putting out pones. They're doing all of the social stuff. Whereas Amazon is consolidating this product (INAUDIBLE). And pretty soon people, potentially, could just go straight to Amazon for any product search that they do.

LAKE (voice-over): Perhaps one of the most profound ideas we get from Caterina Fake is her predictions on the future of friending on the Web.

FAKE: The feverish connecting that we did in Web 2.0 is starting to decline. And I think, you know, what's coming up is much smaller social groups. In this era, we have promiscuously friended everybody and we've made connections and we're -- we're connecting with all of these people that are not necessarily truly our friends.

And I think one of the things that's important, after having gone through that phase, is that there's -- there will be a contraction. You'll start to realize that I can only really pay attention to this number of people.

LAKE: As social networks change the way we interact with one another and redraw the boundaries of privacy, Caterina Fake is confident they will transform users' lives for the better in the year ahead.

Maggie Lake, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

QUEST: Now, while we've been on the air, the U.S. Senate has started voting on whether to ratify, as it's obliged to by the constitution, the new START Treaty for the reduction of nuclear warheads -- the treaty with Russia. We are -- they are now counting the votes. When we get that result, we will bring it to you. It is expected to pass, we believe.

Perhaps related to the vote and to today's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," President Obama tonight is going to hold a news conference. That news conference will be in about an hour and 20 minutes from now. President Obama will be holding a full scale news conference and we will bring -- we will bring that to you.

It's at 21:15 in London, 22:15 in -- in, of course, Central Europe.

The weather forecast now.

Guillermo Arduino is at the CNN World Weather Center.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The maps look pretty much the same as we forecast yesterday. But I have to say, there's snow in Paris, but Britain is getting better. So it seems that even though we see the cold air in place and we see some more snow showers, all those who were at -- who are at those airports that are affected by the cold snap and the snow in Britain have a little bit of a break now, because the cold air is there, but we're not going to see more snow in Britain. The snow is going to persist here into the northern sections of Germany, also Poland. Amsterdam is going to see some snow. The cold air is going to be in place in France. But we're talking about two centimeters -- 2.5 centimeters in Paris.

So still dealing with some snow. But look at this, Richard, 12 hour radar, which means the past 12 hours.

You see how the snow moves away even from Wales, where we have had a lot of snow?

That is the end of the snow showers for Britain.

Now, at the same time, we'll get the snow here in Paris. But again, it's not going to be a lot.

Temperatures are going down. These are the numbers we estimate right now. Berlin at 3.9, but obviously they deal with it much better than everywhere else in Europe. The winds are a problem again. They picked up in speed, 22 kilometers per hour in London, 20 in Paris, 24 kilometers per hour in Copenhagen.

Temperatures not in the negative, but these are the high temperatures of the day. So we may see a freezing point in Paris, for example, where we have some snow, we have some rain. And if it freezes, then we may deal with some ice. But it's not going to be as much as before. It's not going to be a huge storm.

Like the one they are seeing in California. Ski operations are very happy about that, but not people trying to fly into California.

Also, nice weather conditions for Hong Kong. We see some snow showers in Hokkaido, in Kapuro (ph) International Airport in the north and some snow in the northern parts of Honshu. But for the most part, especially Southeast Asia is looking OK and Hong Kong is -- temperatures -- the temperatures are fine and we're not having any problems over there -- Richard.

QUEST: All right, we thank you.

Good. Tomorrow night I need a personal forecast for...

ARDUINO: OK.

QUEST: -- Guillermo, for my own travels. It will be -- I need to know out of London to Atlanta tomorrow night...

ARDUINO: Well, OK.

QUEST:

ARDUINO: We'll figure that out.

QUEST: OK. Let me just remind you, dear viewer, that in just over an hour from now, President Obama will be holding a news conference. He'll be expected, obviously, to comment on the new START vote, "don't ask, don't tell" and the GDP numbers showing the U.S. economy growing at 2.6 percent.

I'm back with a Profitable Moment in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: If it is coming up to Christmas in Spain, it must be time for El Gordo, the fat one, the biggest, most extravagant and lottery that you'll ever come across. Plenty of people across Spain are festive tonight. They shared in the winning jackpot in the world's largest lottery.

Our correspondent bought a ticket.

He didn't win.

Here's his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: They say there's no flow of money in Spain's deep economic crisis. Banks are criticized for not giving out more loans. International investors are demanding higher interest rates before they buy Spanish Treasury bonds and then there's El Gordo, the fat one, the annual Christmas lottery.

Spaniards have paid in about $4 billion to the lottery and the prize money is about $3 billion. The rest of it goes to management and the state treasury. The biggest prize, about $4 million. But it's not usually one person who wins all that money. Instead, Spaniards -- it's almost a rite of passage, a family thing, buy it as members of their families and their co-workers. And if they don't buy it, somebody will give it to them. You got to the butcher shop and you get a ticket. You go to the pharmacy at this time of the year and you get a ticket when you make a purchase.

The odds are that you may win and you may win big. And that's why the Spaniards keep playing. We've talking to many Spaniards who say they spend $60, $100, $200 apiece. And many of them say once that's spent, they consider it gone. If they win, it's just gravy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really big. We always thought it happened on TV and here we are with the winning numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred thousand euros. First, I'll take my family out to dinner and the rest we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My father, mother, we were all in really bad shape. We really needed this money.

GOODMAN: The lottery ceremony moved to this convention center this year, changing locations for the first time in 47 years because the other place wasn't big enough, because there's so much interest. The drawing goes on for hours. And during that time, Spaniards are riveted to this place, watching on television, listening on radio, checking their own lottery tickets to see if today is their lucky day.

The big payout this year, El Gordo, the fat one, was spread quite around the country. But a lot of it fell in the area around Barcelona and on the Mediterranean Coast. Second and third prizes were also spread across the country and the scenes at the lottery offices and at various places where the series of tickets were bought, champagne flowing, lots of joy in what has been a very tough year economically for Spain.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Tonight's Profitable Moment.

Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels, on tonight's program, decries the falloff in tourists to the United States. He rightly reminds us that tourism equates to jobs.

The U.S. has a well known history for making arriving in the country difficult. Numerous changes following in the name of security have increased delays at airports upon arrival. In fact, I can't think of any other country that requires an online visa before travel, then takes fingerprints of all 10 digits and a photo at the border.

When Air New Zealand introduced its London via Hong Kong flight, it became more popular than the NZ2, London via Los Angeles, because it avoided LAX.

Now, it's not for me to say what American policies should be. But surely whatever is introduced should be done in a fast, friendly fashion. Then the United States will welcome not only the huddled masses, but those having a holiday, too.

And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight.

I'm Richard Quest in London.

Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.

END