Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Fog strands travelers in London

PEA SOUPER As weather forecasters predicted the fog would linger into the weekend, many passengers were forced to cancel their travel plans or look for alternative means


Thick fog caused the cancelation of flights at London's Heathrow Airport for a fourth successive day yesterday, forcing many people to scrap or delay their Christmas travel plans.

British Airways (BA) announced it was canceling 170 incoming or outgoing flights yesterday, 84 of them domestic and the rest short-haul European ones.

BA was to operate all its long-haul services in and out of Heathrow, but some departing passengers were expected to face delays of several hours.

Heathrow's second-busiest airline, bmi, had scrapped eight flights by early yesterday morning on top of 40 cancelations on Thursday.

The chaos was expected to continue at other British airports, with Gatwick, Norwich, Coventry and Southampton among those predicting further delays.

However, BA said yesterday morning that it had only canceled one of its Gatwick flights scheduled that day.

Airport operator BAA said it was providing a range of amenities for stranded passengers, including heated marquees outside terminals at Heathrow, with blankets and ponchos, sleeping mats, children's packs and food and drink.

BA also had buses to take as many as 3,000 people north from Heathrow to cities such as Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, where flights were going ahead as normal.

At Heathrow the fog was expected to continue through the weekend, causing more potential delays for passengers making connecting flights.

BA said the fog was expected to continue to affect services at Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports into tonight.

With Heathrow hotels so full that even service rooms were occupied, Velez was one of the 500 people who slept in the chilly terminals overnight.

With international flights receiving priority and capacity at the airport reduced by nearly half, many passengers' holiday plans were thrown into doubt.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled since the fog rolled in on Tuesday, affecting an estimated 40,000 people. About 160,000 people transit through Heathrow on a typical day, but nearly 200,000 were expected to travel through yesterday.

Visibility on Thursday had reached a low of 115m, well below the 1,000m generally considered disruptive for flights.

"When we flew in last night, you couldn't see the ground. I've never seen anything like it before," Velez said on Thursday.

With domestic and European flights increasingly hard to come by, many travelers turned to trains to complete their journeys.

Virgin Trains, which provides services between London and Scotland, said it was providing an extra 4,800 seats due to "record-breaking demand," and Eurostar, the operator of trains from London to Paris and Brussels, reported a 15 percent spike in traffic.

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