Heavy snow hits air travel, roads in Europe

Heavy snow and freezing temperatures shut down European runways on Sunday.

Updated: Dec 19, 2010, 16:10 PM IST

Paris: Heavy snow and freezing temperatures shut down European runways and slowed road traffic on Sunday, cancelling flights and leaving cars skidding down icy streets.

Heavy snow blanketed Paris — a rarity that has occurred several times in recent weeks in an unusually cold winter. A quarter of flights were cancelled at Charles de Gaulle airport until at least 4 pm local time.

London`s Heathrow Airport was not accepting any arrivals on Sunday and was allowing only a handful of departures after snow and ice forced the closure of runways, but was preparing for a full reopening Monday, a statement on its website said.

"We are extremely sorry for the disruption," the statement said, urging passengers to check with their airline before travelling to the airport. Several hundred workers were doing their best "to keep passengers in the terminal as warm and as comfortable as possible while we do everything we can to get Heathrow moving."

At Frankfurt airport, Germany`s biggest, more than 500 flights were cancelled on Sunday out of a planned total of 1,330 departures and arrivals.

While the runways at Frankfurt itself were clear, flights were disrupted by problems elsewhere in Europe, with some passengers left waiting for their flights since Friday. Germany`s Lufthansa cancelled several domestic and regional services to and from its main hub, though long-haul flights were little affected.

In Amsterdam, Schiphol spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang said the airport`s snow plough teams had cleared three runways and planes were arriving and leaving. However, because of problems at other European airports some 30 flights had been cancelled by late morning.

Delays and cancellations also forced about 700 passengers to sleep on camp beds at the airport on Saturday night, Snoerwang said.

Ireland was battered by its worst snow in decades on Saturday, but airports in Belfast and Dublin remained open though warning on their websites of cancellations and delays. Significant numbers of domestic and European flights were cancelled at Saturday Germany`s Frankfurt airport as it dealt with the disruption. Airports in Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark also reported cancellations or delays to flights Saturday.

Horse racing meetings and dozens of soccer games in England and Scotland were called off as a result of the conditions, including a high profile match scheduled for Sunday in London between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Bad weather also forced the Dutch football association to postpone the league classic between archrivals Ajax and Feyenoord.

Bureau Report