Snow snarls air, road and rail travel in Europe
A plow clears snow at Heathrow Airport in London on Dec. 19, 2010.
LONDON - Snow and freezing temperatures continued to cause holiday travel chaos Monday for road, rail and air passengers in Britain and much of Europe after a weekend of disruption.
Airlines said that Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, was the worst hit by the poor weather — with only a limited number of flights to arrive and depart. Hundreds of passengers camped overnight in terminal buildings after services were cancelled or delayed.
Eurostar reported that its trains linking England to France and Belgium were also severely delayed or cancelled and urged travellers to cancel or postpone their trips if possible.
In Germany flight operations were slowed even though Frankfurt airport, Germany's biggest, was clear of snow and ice. Officials cancelled about 300 flights there Monday, out of a planned total of 1,340, because of problems elsewhere in Europe, airport operator Fraport said.
French civil aviation authorities, meanwhile, asked airlines to reduce their flights at the two main Paris airports by 30 per cent.
French aviation spokesman Eric Heraud said these reductions take into account the problems at other European airports that may be destinations for flights from Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports.
More snow is forecast in some areas of Britain for Monday afternoon, adding to the problems, with British Airways warning of more flight cancellations, particularly in the greater London area, where all airports have been affected.
Airports and British travel industry group ABTA have warned it is almost inevitable that some cancellations and delays will continue through this week and likely snarl those attempting to head away for the holiday season.
British Airways warned passengers not to travel to London's Heathrow airport unless they have a confirmed seat on a flight known to be operating despite the weather problems and the backlog of delays. It urged travellers to consider cancelling their flight if possible.
Icy conditions were also hampering travel across Europe, with flights cancelled and delayed in multiple countries at the weekend.
"We are awaiting further updates," before publishing the schedule for the remainder of the day, British Airways said in a statement. "Customers should continue to check their flight status as more snow is forecast this afternoon, which could cause further disruption to airport operations."
In Britain criticism of the breakdown in the air and road system mounted, prompting Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to promise an inquiry into the way passengers were treated after their flights were cancelled. He was expected to address Parliament about the crisis Monday afternoon.
Travellers described scenes of chaos for those arriving at the Heathrow airport, with officials offering contradictory messages about the status of flights.
"What I am hearing is a sense of outrage about the way they were then treated when they were stranded at Heathrow airport," Hammond told BBC television.
Authorities in parts of western Germany banned trucks weighing more than 7.5 tons from highways as a safety measure.
Bus traffic in the Paris region was "very disturbed," the RATP transport authority said, with buses to the airports halted.
Forecasters have said Britain is experiencing some of the most severe winter weather in a century, with continued freezing temperatures and snowfall accumulations expected Monday afternoon and evening.
Temperatures plunged to a record low overnight in Northern Ireland, and forecasters predicted fresh deluges of snow across Britain.
Motoring organizations have warned of potentially fatal conditions on Britain's icy roads as commuters tried to get to work.
- Gregory Katz, The Associated Press; Geir Moulson in Berlin and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.