Bloomberg News

European Airports Limit Region’s Flights as Snow Spreads

January 21, 2013

European Airports Seek Return to Normal Traffic After Snow Delay

A plane leaves Heathrow airport on Monday. Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

European airports are seeking to return to normal operations tomorrow after snow and ice swept through the region, disrupting hundreds of flights.

Heathrow airport in London, Europe’s busiest hub, and Charles de Gaulle in Paris said they aim to resume a largely normal flight program tomorrow, while Fraport AG said it expects snow will continue to cause disruption in Frankfurt tomorrow. Heathrow scrapped 196 flights today, about 15 percent of the total, and Frankfurt suspended almost half of all flights.

Airport disruptions entered a second week as arctic temperatures engulfed much of Europe, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and aircraft iced up at their gates. European rules require airlines to pay for food and accommodation for passengers stranded by cancellations. Some light snow is expected over Northern England and Scotland on Tuesday, with weather easing across Britain by Wednesday.

“The atmosphere is finely balanced across southwestern areas of Britain, with some places seeing heavy rain and others seeing heavy snow on Tuesday,” Met Office Chief Forecaster Martin Young said in an e-mailed statement.

British Airways (IAG), a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, said customers scheduled to travel today will not be charged if they choose to delay and rebook. People on canceled flights are being offered the choice of a refund, re- booking or re-routing on another airline, the carrier said.

Suspending Flights

BA is scrapping mostly short-haul flights to destinations including Frankfurt, Berlin and Geneva, Switzerland. The carrier’s schedule is “under constant review,” spokesman Tony Cane said by e-mail.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) has begun suspending flights scheduled to fly tomorrow, boosting total cancellations for the two first days of the week to 536, according to its website. While all four runways in Frankfurt are clear, many planes require time-consuming de-icing, further disrupting operations.

The U.K. Met Office issued an “amber” alert for parts of northern England and Scotland today, warning that some areas might have as much as 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of snow.

Gatwick airport, London’s second-busiest hub, said on its website that passengers should expect some delays and check with airlines before traveling. Some services on the direct train from the airport to the capital have also been canceled.

Stansted, the city’s No. 3 airport, said its runway is clear and the visibility is good. Ryanair Plc (RYA), the No. 1 operator there, canceled 24 flights today because of a shortage of de-icing fluid.

Eurostar

London City, in the east of the capital, said its runway is now open after being closed earlier today. Some flights may experience disruptions due to last night’s weather conditions, the airport operator said on its Twitter feed.

Eurostar Group Ltd., whose trains to London from Paris and Brussels have been brought to a halt during previous snowfalls, pre-emptively canceled five services Tuesday and warned all trains would suffer delays because of speed restrictions.

British rail companies including Virgin Trains and Stagecoach Group Plc (SGC)’s South West Trains have also amended timetables to minimize disruption. SNCF, the French state-owned rail operator, slowed its high-speed TGV trains while projecting 97 percent of operations would be maintained.

Transport for London, which oversees the U.K. capital’s public transport system, said it has 89,000 metric tons of salt stockpiled and de-icing trains are in operation. The city’s Underground subway lines were all operating normally as of 3:42 p.m. local time.

Air France-KLM

KLM canceled about 50 European flights to and from Amsterdam-Schiphol, according to a statement on the website of the Dutch national carrier owned by Air France-KLM. (AF) The airport scrapped 20 flights overall, mostly because of snow conditions elsewhere in Europe, spokeswoman Marit Merkus said.

The French civil aviation authority forecast a return to normal service tomorrow in an e-mailed statement, citing the latest weather forecasts. The authority, airport operator Aeroports de Paris, Air France and other carriers “will remain vigilant as to the possible presence of mixed rain and snow during the day,” it said in the statement.

All runways at Brussels Airport are clear and the airport functioning normally, spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse said by telephone today. Some flights have been canceled as result of snow at other airports and a number of flights have been diverted to Brussels.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net; Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net


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