January 19, 2013 12:25 pm

Icy weather disrupts UK travel plans

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Winter weather Jan 18th...A snow plough clears snow from Heathrow Airport, as Britain s transport network began to buckle today as heavy snow swept the UK. puknews©PA

Heathrow has cut the number of flights on Sunday by at least 20 per cent because of snow.

Heathrow airport Holdings said that by reducing the number of flights, those still scheduled had a better chance of taking off or landing.

Details of which flights will be cancelled on Sunday will be announced by airlines once they have finalised their schedules.

On the roads, travellers were warned on Sunday morning to expect delays on motorways and other routes. The M48 Severn Bridge between Wales and England was closed due to the snow. In Scotland, one lane of the M8 in Renfrewshire was closed in both directions after an accident.

Normand Boivin, Heathrow airport Holdings’ chief operating officer, said: “We apologise for the disruption caused to passengers by the expected snow ... Cancelling flights in advance of disruptive weather is a procedure used increasingly around the world, as it means the greatest number of passengers can fly with the minimum amount of disruption.”

British Airways and Heathrow airport Holdings have apologised to passengers for widespread disruption caused by Friday’s snowfall.

Hundreds of people slept overnight on the floor of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, home to British Airways, after the airline cancelled an estimated 300 flights on Friday because of the snow.

The disruption continued on Saturday, with Heathrow airport Holdings, the airport operator, saying more than 100 flights had been cancelled. Most were thought to be British Airways’ cancellations.

“We are doing everything we can to help customers whose flights have been disrupted by severe weather and we fully apologise for the inconvenience caused to their travel plans,” said British Airways.

“Due to the severe weather [on Friday], there will be knock on disruption to flights on Saturday, and we would strongly advise customers to check the very latest status of their flight ... before coming to the airport.”

The problems at Heathrow on Friday – when more than 400 flights were cancelled – stemmed partly from the airport having to operate on just one of its two runways for much of the morning.

It was necessary to alternate the closure of one of Heathrow’s two runways so that snow could be cleared.

Instead of 44 take-off and landings by airport per hour, the airport was reduced to 26 or less on Friday.

National Air Traffic Services, the air traffic controller, insisted on a reduced schedule because of reduced visibility in the bad weather.

One person familiar with the situation said British Airways also had problems on Friday afternoon removing ice from aircraft that were due to depart from Terminal 5.

This meant that some incoming British Airways flights were unable to immediately secure stands at Terminal 5, resulting in passengers having to sit on these jets for two to three hours before eventually disembarking, added this person.

It also meant some outgoing British Airways flights to long-haul destinations were cancelled.

In some cases on Friday, passengers boarded aircraft and sat on the jets for several hours, only to eventually be told later the flights were cancelled.

Some of these passengers were unable to then retrieve their bags. British Airways said it would forward passengers’ bags to an address of their choosing.

On Saturday, Heathrow airport Holdings said the airport’s operating performance was improving.

“Both runways ... are open at Heathrow this morning with no restrictions ... We are sorry that passengers suffered disruption [on Friday].”

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