Thousands of travellers stranded at airports across Europe

Thousands of travellers stranded at airports across Europe London: Thousands of frustrated travellers remained stranded at airports across Europe for the fourth day on Tuesday, even as authorities warned that disruption could last until after Christmas, following the heaviest snowfalls in decades.

Thousands of Christmas travellers were forced to sleep in airports and train stations across Europe as fresh snowfalls paralysed transport system.

At Heathrow, Britain's busiest airport, hundreds are spending their fourth day stranded in terminal buildings which looked like Mumbai's busy Victoria Terminus.

Beleaguered BAA, the operator of Heathrow, has scrapped two thirds of today's schedule and one of the two runways is still closed, despite it not snowing heavily since Saturday morning.

Air India operated two flights to India yesterday, one to New Delhi and the other to Mumbai, but no flights were allowed to take off to India today, a spokesperson of the airlines said to a news agency.

The British Airways operated its London-Delhi flight yesterday, though it took off after the passengers spent four hours inside the plane at the Terminal 5.

"Passengers should anticipate further delays," a BAA spokesman said.

The operator warned "significant cancellations" would last until at least tomorrow and that many part of the airfield would be out of action until tomorrow morning "at the earliest".

"The key message for our passengers is to make sure you check on the Heathrow website to see if your flight is going to depart, if it is, come to the airport and we will do our absolute best to give you a great experience," Colin Matthews, chief executive of British airport operator BAA, was quoted as saying by ITV news.

Most of the Europe-bound flights were cancelled while the British Airways operated their long-haul flights including those for Japan.

Temperatures hit a low of minus 17.6 degrees Celsius (O.3 Fahrenheit) in the northwestern town of Crosby, although in London they hovered around 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

Forecasters are now warning that another 12 inches of snow could fall in some parts of Britain before Wednesday morning, with Wales and the south west likely to be worst hit.

The sub-zero temperatures is expected to last until Christmas but that the long-awaited thaw could begin on Boxing Day.