Paris’s main airport got an early Christmas gift flown in from the United States today – a supply of de-icing fluid to get planes airborne.
A strike at the main French factory producing glycol led to shortages that forced authorities to halve the number of take-offs from Charles de Gaulle airport throughout the morning.
As freezing temperatures continued, the cutback was reduced about one third.
Meanwhile passengers at the airport were asked to leave a section of a major terminal for security reasons because of large amounts of snow on the roof, said Bernard Cathelain, deputy director of the Paris airport authority ADP.
He denied French media reports that the terminal, 2E, was evacuated, and said the terminal was still operating.
“We’ve asked passengers to move” to another part of the terminal, he said. A roof at terminal 2E collapsed in 2004, not long after it was opened, killing four travellers and sending tons of glass, steel and concrete showering down.
New snowfall caused travel problems around France and also shut Duesseldorf airport in Germany for hours.
French authorities said some 400 flights at Charles de Gaulle were cancelled in the first wave of reductions.
That was bad timing for travellers hoping to be at the table Christmas Eve, when the festive Christmas meal is served in France.
Getting people home is “our goal for tonight,” Air France ground official Michel Emeyriat said. “We will do everything so that our planes can take off with everyone,” he said. He conceded that long-haul flights get priority treatment.
Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said that with three cold waves that hit European airports, glycol “very clearly became a very precious product.” He said the strike at the French factory “had nothing to do with the cold” and production is to resume on Monday.
The fluid shipment came just as backlogs of passengers waiting for a flight at Paris’ two main airports eased somewhat after days of major weather-related congestion.
In Germany, Duesseldorf airport closed for several hours because of new snowfall, with some 65 flights cancelled. The railway line between Hannover and Berlin was closed overnight because of ice-covered overhead electric wires, but services resumed early today.
In Denmark, the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm remains the worst hit by the snow. Police have urged people to stay indoors.
Some 400 passengers on two ferries to the island that sits south of Sweden’s southernmost tip, spent the night on the ferries. The ships were due to dock on Thursday afternoon but a blizzard forced them to stay just out of the harbour.
Today the passengers were able to reach the port city of Roenne, where they were put up in military barracks and a sports hall.