Air travel disruptions rippled across Europe for a fourth day in the countdown to Christmas as Frankfurt airport was closed yesterday morning after heavy snowfall.
Fraport AG’s Frankfurt Airport, Europe’s third-busiest, reopened two runways after shutting all three earlier this morning for snow clearance, spokesman Juergen Harrer said in a telephone interview.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it re-routed Frankfurt-bound long-haul jets to Munich and deployed additional wide-bodies to Dusseldorf and Zurich.
Northern parts of Germany were expected to receive as much as 10cm of fresh snow during the day, the German Weather Service said.
In London, tens of thousands of travelers who have been trying to head home for Christmas since the weekend remain stranded as London Heathrow Airport operates at a third of capacity and as snow, ice and frigid temperatures turned rail and road travel into chaos.
“It’s unbelievable,” Deutsche Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Jachnow said in a telephone interview. “We all thought it would get better and then this new wave of ice and snow hit us. Any optimism that our flight plan would normalize in coming days has dissipated.”
British Airways has canceled 165 flights scheduled to depart from Heathrow, according to the London-based carrier’s Web site.
“There is still ongoing disruption across Europe because of the adverse weather conditions,” airline spokeswoman Cathy Mussert said.
“There could be further delays and cancelations. We’re advising passengers to check with their airline to confirm their flight is operating,” she said.
Gatwick, which serves London, reopened as planned at 6am with 600 flights scheduled for the day, according to the airport’s Web site. Paris’ Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were set to begin the day with at least 28 canceled flights before 7am, data tracker FlightStats.com said.
The two Paris airports stayed open late on Monday to clear a backlog of flights delayed by the snow, and operating hours were extended for four days at Heathrow airport.
“It is necessary to allow as many airplanes as possible to fly as long as weather conditions remain favorable,” French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said in a statement.
Snow and freezing fog have hindered air travel across Europe since last week with up to 20cm of snow falling in parts of the UK on Monday. Airlines including Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic Airways have also been forced to cancel flights, leaving thousands of travelers stranded.
“It can’t be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow ploughs or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes,” London Mayor Boris Johnson told the BBC on Monday.