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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Snow in the UK causes chaos at one of world’s biggest airports

Heathrow blames airlines for failing to ensure their planes were ready for take-off

The heaviest snow in Britain for four years saw flights cancelled and roads closed. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS
The heaviest snow in Britain for four years saw flights cancelled and roads closed. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS

Passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport faced a second day of delays and disruption on Monday after weekend snow caused chaos, long queues and irate customers left waiting for hours without information about their flights.

The airport – the world’s second largest international airport by passenger number – said the responsibility lay with airlines to ensure they were “fully de-iced” before take-off on Sunday, prompting the delays and cancellations.

Delays continued Monday at the airport, which handled 75 million passengers last year, with aircraft out of position as the cold spell continued. The problems at Heathrow led to delays at other UK airports.

The airport is the hub airport for British Airways whose passengers vented their anger on Twitter, posting pictures of long-winding queues and complaining of a lack of information from ground staff.

As many as 50,000 BA passengers were stranded worldwide because delays in the de-icing of planes led to a backlog of flights, according to travel expert Simon Calder.

BA said the delays were "caused by the severe weather conditions that have affected airports across northern Europe".

It added: "Time spent on de-icing aircraft to ensure safe operation plus air traffic control restrictions and the re-positioning of aircraft and crews from yesterday have led to further cancellations and delays today."

Passengers blamed the airline for failing to have prepared sufficiently for the anticipated cold snap.

“Speaking with other passengers in the line last night, we all agreed that BA has learned nothing from seven years ago and Heathrow have failed to address the issue of having enough de-icers to cope with demand when needed,” said Kenton Keithly, of California, who was left stranded in Newcastle after his connecting flight to Heathrow was cancelled.

“Britain obviously doesn't do well in winter. Everything breaks down.”

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Flights were cancelled at short notice at the weekend and dozens more from a number of airlines were listed as cancelled or delayed to destinations in Europe, the United States and the Middle East on Monday. Both main London airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, urged passengers to check their flights before heading to the airports.

“We're sorry for the problems and inconvenience caused by the disruption,” said British Airways in a tweet.

Heathrow officials also apologised for the continued disruption as airlines tried to bring order back to their timetables by moving planes around the globe. “We apologise to those whose travel has been impacted and regret the inconveniences that have been caused,” it said.

The cold snap has seen hundreds of schools closed, trains halted, and thousands left without power across large parts of the country. A ferry ran aground near the French port of Calais owing to high winds. The problems are expected to continue with temperatures are expected to drop as low as minus 15C (5F) on Monday night.

More than a foot of snow fell in Sennybridge in Wales which saw 32cm (12.5 inches) on Sunday. “Blitzed by a snow bomb,” said a headline in the Daily Mirror.