x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE air travel disruption deepens

Emirates and Etihad flights to the UK, Europe and Japan are being cancelled and delayed as heavy snow in Europe disrupts travel plans for the second day running.

Flights to the UK, Europe and even Japan are being cancelled and delayed as heavy snow in Europe disrupts travel plans for the second day running.
Flights to the UK, Europe and even Japan are being cancelled and delayed as heavy snow in Europe disrupts travel plans for the second day running.

Passengers travelling between the UAE and the UK or Europe have been stranded today as heavy snow disrupts travel for the second day running.

Dubai carrier Emirates earlier today cancelled all flights to London's Heathrow for 24 hours and was monitoring flights to other European destinations. All of its flights to other UK destinations operated.

The airline advised its passengers to check the status of their flight on www.emirates.com for possible changes or delays, before departing for the airport. Flight information is being updated on the website every five minutes.

Tim Clark, President of Emirates airline, said Emirates was advised by the British Airports Authority (BAA) that after two of its flights from Dubai to Heathrow had taken off, they would not be allowed to land because the airport was closed.

"This is despite the fact that we operated these flights in compliance with the BAA requirements that Heathrow Airport would accept flight arrivals after 11am local time," said Mr Clark. "This has caused enormous inconvenience to the 900-plus passengers on-board, in addition to those who have already been stranded in the UK and Europe."

"Furthermore, Emirates has had to cancel three additional Heathrow flights today, which were also fully booked. This will have the same impact on the return flights to Dubai.  Emirates' ability to mount the extra sections required to recover the enormous back-log is very limited and we will be discussing this issue with the BAA."

Abu Dhabi's Etihad also delayed all flights to and from London until further notice. An Etihad spokesperson said two flights to London were diverted yesterday; one to Manchester and one to Frankfurt. Passengers on the Manchester flight have been transported to London by coach. This morning's EY11 Abu Dhabi - London flight also returned to Abu Dhabi and passengers affected are being accommodated at local hotels.

According to www.etihad.com, the subsequent disruption has also forced the airline to cancel two flights between the UAE and Tokyo's Narita airport. Passengers are also being asked to check the status of their flights on the website.

Other airlines, including British Airways, Virgin and Qantas have also cancelled or delayed flights in Britain, Germany France, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The blizzards and freezing temperatures in Europe have also shut down train tracks and highways, leaving shivering drivers stranded on roadsides.

Heathrow Airport would not accept any arrivals today, allowing only a handful of departures after snow and ice forced the closure of runways, but was preparing for a full reopening on Monday, a statement on its website said.

"We are extremely sorry for the disruption," the statement said, urging passengers to check with their airline before travelling to the airport. Several hundred workers were doing their best "to keep passengers in the terminal as warm and as comfortable as possible while we do everything we can to get Heathrow moving".

London's Gatwick airport reopened late on Saturday afternoon after 150 employees using dozens of ploughs worked to clear the runway of 10 centimetres of snow, though officials warned flights would be limited and cancellations were likely.

As Ireland was battered by its worst snow in decades, airports in Belfast and Dublin remained open but warned on their websites of cancellations and delays.

The four runways of Paris' main Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport were also closed this morning. Before the closure all departing and arriving flights were between 30 minutes and an hour late.

The French civil aviation authority on Saturday asked airlines to cancel at least a quarter of their scheduled flights to Roissy betweens 7am and 3pm GMT, while 60 per cent of flights were delayed. Several hundred passengers whose planes were re-routed to Roissy because of the closure of London's Heathrow airport spent the night in departure lounges.

At Paris' Orly airport one runway was being cleared of snow early today and flights were suffering delays of an average 30 minutes, officials said.

Many flights were also cancelled in northeastern France, where snow already blanketed the ground, and services were cancelled at the airports in the cities of Nantes and Rennes.

Significant numbers of domestic and European flights were cancelled at Germany's Frankfurt airport as it dealt with the disruption. Germany's railway operator Deutsche Bahn said it was pressing into service all the trains it could - although some journeys were subject to delays.

"Everything that can roll is rolling," a spokesman Holger Auferkamp told the German news agency DAPD.

The icy weather also swept over large parts of Scandinavia, causing problems particularly in Denmark, where dozens of flights were cancelled at the airport in Copenhagen.

According to Danish news agency Ritzau, train traffic between Denmark and southern Sweden was also disrupted because of track problems, partly because of the snow, forcing passengers to take buses between the two countries.

In Sweden, where media reports suggest the country is experiencing the coldest winter weather this early on in the season since the mid-1800's, several road accidents were reported, with more than 20 in the Stockholm area alone.

*With agencies