Air travel disruptions rippled across Europe for a fourth day in the countdown to Christmas as Frankfurt airport was closed this morning after heavy snowfall.
Fraport AG’s Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third busiest, reopened two runways after shutting all three earlier this morning for snow clearance, spokesman Juergen Harrer said in a telephone interview. Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it re-routed Frankfurt-bound long-haul jets to Munich and deployed additional wide-bodies to Dusseldorf and Zurich.
Northern parts of Germany will receive as much as 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) of fresh snow during the day, according to the German Weather Service. In London, tens of thousands of travelers who have been trying to head home for Christmas since the weekend remain stranded as Heathrow airport operates at a third of capacity and as snow, ice and frigid temperatures turned rail and road travel into chaos.
“It’s unbelievable,” Thomas Jachnow, a spokesman for Cologne, Germany-based Deutsche Lufthansa, said in a telephone interview. “We all thought it would get better and then this new wave of ice and snow hit us. Any optimism that our flight plan would normalize in coming days has dissipated.”
BAA Ltd.’s Heathrow airport said it second runway will remain closed until later today. British Airways Plc has canceled 165 flights scheduled to depart from Europe’s biggest hub, according to the London-based carrier’s website.
“There is still ongoing disruption across Europe because of the adverse weather conditions,” said BAA spokeswoman Cathy Mussert. “There could be further delays and cancelations. We’re advising passengers to check with their airline to confirm their flight is operating.”
Gatwick, which serves London, reopened as planned at 6 a.m. with 600 flights scheduled for the day, according to the airport’s website. Paris’s Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were set to begin the day with at least 28 canceled flights before 7 a.m., data tracker FlightStats.com said.
Snow and freezing fog have hindered air travel across Europe since last week with up to 20 centimeters of snow falling in parts of the U.K. yesterday. Airlines including Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Qantas Airways Ltd. and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. have also been forced to cancel flights, leaving thousands of travelers stranded.
Eurostar Group Ltd. has placed speed restrictions on its high speed lines, adding up to two hours to journey times, according to a statement on its website.
The two Paris airports stayed open late yesterday to clear a backlog of flights delayed by the snow, and operating hours were extended for four days at London’s Heathrow airport.
“It is necessary to allow as many airplanes as possible to fly as long as weather conditions remain favorable,” French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said in a statement.
Airlines and rail operators urged travelers to stay home if possible, and U.S. carriers waived fees as more snow was forecast for England, France and Germany.
BAA, the U.K. airport operator owned by Ferrovial SA, asked passengers without a confirmed flight not to travel to Heathrow airport. London’s City airport is open with some delays and cancelations, spokeswoman Geraldine Nolan said by phone today.
Aeroports de Paris, which runs the two Paris airports, said the average flight delay at Charles de Gaulle was two to three hours.
Dublin’s airport restarted flights at 11:30 p.m. last night after suspending services earlier while crews cleared the runway of snow and ice, according to a website statement.
“It can’t be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow ploughs or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes,” Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, told the BBC yesterday.
Fraport is aiming to open the third runway at Frankfurt airport before noon, spokesman Harrer said. After heavy snowfall in a short time starting around 3 a.m., the airport operator decided that snow-clearance crews could not safely clear it if aircraft were using the runways, he said.
Eurostar, which links London to Paris and Brussels by train, asked passengers not already at stations to stay home and urged all customers to cancel non-essential travel. The service isn’t accepting new bookings through Dec. 24.
United Continental, American
Most other trains throughout France were slower than normal, though 90 percent were arriving less than 1 hour late, according to train operator SNCF.
Qantas canceled flights from London and turned back other flights headed to the U.K., affecting 3,000 passengers, Simon Rushton, a spokesman for the Sydney-based carrier, said yesterday.
Cathay Pacific said it expects to operate three scheduled flights to London from Hong Kong through early tomorrow morning. The carrier’s four flights from Heathrow today are also expected to go ahead, pending capacity constraints and weather conditions, the airline said in an e-mailed statement.
Deutsche Bahn AG spokeswoman Kathrin Fellenberg said the winter weather continued to disrupt Germany’s national railroad network, causing numerous train delays and cancelations.