Heathrow like 'a refugee camp' as 100 flights are cancelled

One hundred flights have been cancelled at Heathrow so far today amid reports that the hub airport is like a “refugee camp” due to weather-related disruption.

Heathrow like 'a refugee camp' as 100 flights are cancelled

One hundred flights have been cancelled at Heathrow so far today amid reports that the hub airport is like a “refugee camp” due to weather-related disruption.

A spokeswoman said that although weather conditions have improved, about 100 flights have had to be cancelled in a “recovery” from yesterday – 67 of which are departures.

“In terms of how today is going so far, the weather conditions are much better today. The runways are open.

“We do have about 100 cancellations at the moment, but that’s really just recovery from yesterday.

“Two-thirds of that 100 – 67 of the cancellations – are departures, and the remainder are arrival cancellations.

“At the moment the airport is operating as usual. We have the same number of aircraft using the runways as we normally would,” the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, painted a bleak picture when he told the BBC that Heathrow looked like “a refugee camp”, with people sleeping on the floor.

Mr Calder said people were angry at the lack of information and the short notice of flights being cancelled.

He said people were stuck on planes “for many hours” last night as they waited to take off because the rate at which planes departed was dramatically cut.

There are delays of up to 20 hours on flights arriving from Europe, he added.

British Airways had to cancel “in the region of 30” flights today due to what it says is “knock-on disruption from yesterday”.

A spokesman for BA said: “We have unfortunately had to make a number of cancellations today, mainly due to knock-on disruption from yesterday, so we’ve got a number of aircraft out of position and it’s quite a complex operation to put that back together, so that’s what we’re working on at the moment.”

Commenting on the number of flights affected, he added: “It’s in the region of 30. Those are predominantly short-haul flights to domestic and European locations.”

BA is now offering customers who no longer wish to travel this weekend the chance to rebook their flight for a later date.

It is also providing refunds and overnight accommodation to those who could not fly, or letters for them to make a claim at a later date.

Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport is operating as normal today, with no knock-on from yesterday’s bad weather, a spokeswoman said.

No major cancellations are expected, and 505 flights are scheduled for the day.

“We are advising passengers to check their plans before they travel, and urge people who are travelling this weekend to be aware that there could be disruptions at airports across Europe or in other parts of the UK,” said the spokeswoman.

Stansted Airport announced via its Twitter feed: “Overnight snow clearance means flights operating as normal this morningSTN_Airport. Passengers can check flight status on airline website.”

Philip Mueller, a Swiss student, said on the Heathrow Express train this morning that he hoped his flight to Zurich would be departing as scheduled.

The 26-year-old said: “I don’t know, but I think it is.

“My flight was cancelled yesterday.

“Swiss airlines sent me a text message three hours before.

“I didn’t get any message this morning.”

As he watched a news report on a television on the train warning of disruption at Heathrow, he said his plans to enjoy the snow in his home country had been ruined by snow in the UK.

“I was going to ski today but I can’t now,” he said.

In a statement, Heathrow Airport said: “Both runways and all stands and taxiways are open at Heathrow this morning with no restrictions.

“We do not expect significant snowfall today, but temperatures are forecast to remain around zero degrees or below and there is the possibility of low-visibility conditions.

“There have been 100 cancellations so far – 67 departing and 33 arriving – due largely to displaced aircraft and crews.

“Passengers should check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.

“There is a chance of further snow tomorrow, with a potential accumulation of between 2cm (0.8in) and 5cm (2in) from 1100, and we will be talking to airlines today about tomorrow’s schedule.

“We supported British Airways yesterday evening by assisting passengers in the terminals with refreshments and blankets.

“We also offered help with hotel bookings and ticket re-booking.

“We are sorry that passengers suffered disruption yesterday. We have additional staff on the airport and we’re doing everything we can to help the airlines recover their schedule.”

Husband and wife David and Janet Brindle, from Cumbria, branded BA's customer service and treatment of passengers caught up in the chaos as ``appalling'' and said ``people were close to tears''.

The couple were due to set off on the holiday of a lifetime – five weeks in New Zealand – yesterday morning, but are still at Heathrow after missing their Air New Zealand flight.

They sat on a BA plane at Manchester Airport from 9am until 3pm yesterday and Mrs Brindle said they were given very little information.

“They got us off the plane but our bags weren’t off.

“Not a single person came to tell us what was happening.

“Most people missed their connecting long-haul flights from Heathrow.

“We were advised to make our own way to Heathrow so that’s what we did,” she said.

The couple, who stayed in a hotel near Heathrow last night, said there were “a lot of angry people” at Manchester Airport yesterday due to the disruption, and said they would not be flying with BA again.

“Nobody knew what they were doing. They couldn’t tell us anything. They were quite rude, actually,” Mrs Brindle said.

Her husband added: “They didn’t seem to have a risk-management plan in place.

“There was no contingency plan.”

The couple also said they believed BA was being “economical with the truth” throughout their ordeal.

“There was just chaos,” Mr Brindle said.

Tempers were becoming frayed in Terminal 5, with winding queues resulting in accusations of queue-jumping by frustrated passengers.

Steve Greenwood, from Yorkshire, who is travelling to Seoul with his wife, shouted at a group of passengers he and others believed were queue-jumping, saying they “just push in where they want”.

Clearly frustrated, Mr Greenwood, who had been standing in the queue for more than half an hour, said it seemed ridiculous that it was taking so long to check in.

He also expressed anger towards BA, saying: “BA stands for bloody awful.”

One Australian man on his way to a conference in Geneva, who asked not to be named, remained lighthearted, saying: “We’ve spoken to more reporters than BA staff.

“Does it come as a great surprise that it snows in the northern hemisphere?”

One 26-year-old woman, who was on her mobile phone crying, was supposed to fly to Hong Kong yesterday and was joined in Terminal 5 today with her mother.

The mother and daughter, neither of whom wanted to be named, had not yet joined a queue and were worried about how long they would have to stand.

Her mother said: “She thought that it was all going smoothly. The bags were all checked in and everything.

“The bad thing is the baggage.

“All baggage went through and they wouldn’t let them have it back.”

Danish transit passenger Ebbe Bernhagen said he has spent hours either sitting on a stationary plane or standing in a queue.

“I’ve been in the queue for three and a half hours,” he said.

“I sat on the plane for five hours in Copenhagen.”

Mr Bernhagen hopes he and his wife will eventually make it to San Francisco.

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