Travel chaos continues in Europe and UK


LONDON – Disruptions to flights and high-speed train travel in continental Europe and Britain have created travel chaos for tens of thousands of travellers in the busy Christmas period following heavy weekend snowfalls.

Cold weather was also likely to dent growth in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, Volker Treier, chief economist at Germany’s DIHK chamber of industry and commerce, said.

“A lot of construction projects have been stopped and a lot of business trips cancelled,” he said. “Freight transport has also had weather problems. The bottom line is the harsh weather will cost about a half a point of growth this quarter.”

German railways put on more trains yesterday to help stranded air travellers reach their destinations, but in France the national aviation authority asked airlines to reduce services as a precaution after more snow was forecast.

In Britain, the bad weather has caused severe delays to rail services across northern and central districts and forecasters said more heavy snow was on the way.

Travel havoc has triggered calls for legislation to force airports to deal more effectively with bad weather.

London’s Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, and Frankfurt Airport, the biggest on continental Europe, said on their websites that operations were returning to normal after severe disruptions.

Analysts at Davy Stockbrokers and Oddo Securities estimate the disruption is costing British Airways up to £10 million (€11.7 million) a day.

Frankfurt was open and running at full capacity, said an airport spokesman, adding there was a backlog of about 3,500 stranded passengers, including some 600 who spent the night on emergency cots at the airport.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said it would add extra trains from yesterday until December 31st to cope with a surge in demand due to air travel disruptions.

Traffic had been starting to return to normal at Paris airports, where some 3,000 people have been stranded.

But the French aviation authority asked airlines to cut services by 15 per cent later yesterday and 25 per cent today at the country’s busiest airport, Charles de Gaulle to the north of Paris.

Eurostar, operator of high-speed trains between London and Brussels and Paris, said it would resume normal check-in service, but asked passengers not to show up until an hour before departure “to avoid congestion and an unnecessary wait”.

On Tuesday, thousands were forced to queue in the cold for hours around London’s St Pancras station as all Eurostar’s seats were taken by travellers bounced from airlines.

Although the logjam of travellers was starting to ease, many passengers were irate.

“This was our holiday of a lifetime,” a man at Heathrow who’d been planning to travel with his wife told Sky News. “And it’s a nightmare.” – (Reuters)