Flights cancelled at Heathrow after heavy snowfalls and freezing fog


LONDON – Many flights were cancelled at Britain’s busiest airport yesterday – hours after it stopped snowing.

Planes were grounded at London’s Heathrow airport following Saturday’s heavy snowfall and the airport’s decision to cancel nearly a third of its flights.

The decision came as wintry showers ceased across the country and forecasters predicted dry conditions and a partial thaw.

A spokesman for Heathrow said the move was designed to minimise disruption and in anticipation of freezing fog yesterday evening.

While the runways, taxiways and stands had been cleared of snow, only 50 per cent of the 1,300 scheduled flights were scheduled to go ahead.

But the airport insisted that its “snow plan” had worked “far better” than it had in previous years.

A spokesman said the airport – which operates at 99.2 per cent capacity – quickly got “back to normal” as it worked to clear the backlog of flights.

“We took the decision with airlines and air traffic control yesterday to reduce the flight schedule in advance,” the spokesman said.

“By cancelling flights in advance, airlines were able to rebook some people on to flights that were departing, and passengers had better quality information about whether they could fly or not.”

Extra staff were drafted in to terminals to help passengers rebook flights.

Heathrow’s usual flight schedule is due to operate today but passengers were warned there may still be cancellations because of yesterday’s disruption, with aircraft and crew needing to be repositioned.

Travellers were advised to check the status of their flights ahead of departure.

The latest upheaval came after a night of heavy snowfall which saw Britain go to bed as snowflakes fell across the country and wake up to a carpet of white.

The big freeze brought dumps of snow up to 16cm deep, with forecasters warning that the snow would linger on the ground in many areas as the temperatures remained low.

Away from the picturesque scenes, motorists battled with treacherous conditions as the weather brought severe disruption to the roads.

Many drivers were forced to spend the night in their cars as traffic came to a standstill on the M25.

While the most significant air travel set-backs were reported at Heathrow, other airports affected included Stansted, Birmingham and Luton where operations were suspended for a period on Saturday night as snow piled up on the runways. Their services resumed yesterday, albeit with some delays.

A full schedule of flights was planned for Gatwick Airport but passengers were warned of possible disruption.

Train services were also affected. – (PA)