Pattaya Daily News

05 February 2012 :: 10:02:38 am 61846

Snow-go Britain!

UK blanketed by snow with four inches settling in London in hours... but Heathrow cancels flights BEFORE flakes fall.
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Airport bosses came under fire last night after cancelling a third of today’s flights at Heathrow because of severe weather – nine hours before a flake of snow had even fallen.

Amid forecasts of six inches of snow and possible freezing fog, Spanish-owned operator BAA announced yesterday morning that 30 per cent of today’s flights from the world’s busiest airport – about 200 – would not take off to ‘minimise disruption to passengers’.

It means that the flights of up to 18,000 travellers could be cancelled or rescheduled as airlines scramble to adjust their flight plans. The decision was in stark contrast to airports across most of Europe where, despite arctic conditions, flights were due to take off as normal. Munich saw temperatures plunge to minus 27C on Friday night but the airport expected no disruptions today.

The BAA move evoked memories of Christmas 2010, when Heathrow shut for five days, ruining the holidays of tens of thousands of people because there were insufficient snow clearance vehicles to keep runways open.

The decision was met with derision by passengers at the airport, where by 7pm yesterday a light covering of snow was on the ground although runways remained clear.

Retired teacher Miriam Walters, 62, and husband Derek, 58, flew in on the 4.10pm flight from Moscow after visiting their daughter Penny.

Mrs Walters said: ‘The runways at Moscow were covered with snow and still we managed to leave and arrive at our destination with no bother at all. It’s only when you go to other countries that you realise how pathetic we are at coping with a little bit of extreme weather.’

Aimie Greggs, 29, a sales rep from Enfield, London, arrived from Hamburg on the 5.20pm flight. She said: ‘The UK seems useless at dealing with all sorts of weather, whether it’s too cold or too hot.’

BAA yesterday contacted London Mayor Boris Johnson’s chief of staff Edward Lister to explain why it had ordered the flight reductions, citing the threat of freezing fog as the main reason.

But in its official announcement, BAA said it expected reduced visibility during today and ‘possible freezing fog from 1800 (6pm)’.

If fog did hang over Heathrow later today, it could lead to more flights being grounded and force air traffic controllers to increase the time between each take-off and landing slot for safety reasons.

Heathrow’s chief operating officer, Normand Boivin, said: ‘This decision ensures the greatest number of passengers can fly with the minimum of disruption. It also means those passengers whose flights are cancelled will know in advance, and can make alternative arrangements or rebook in relative comfort.’

Because passenger volumes are below average in early February, airlines were confident that in many cases they would be able to offer alternative seats to passengers. This will enable airlines to fill empty seats on flights leaving at different times of the day.

Last night, Gatwick had still to decide on any flight cancellations. Stansted and London Luton had no cancellations planned for today. Neither did Southampton.

At Manchester, officials said although there had been snow flurries, the comparatively milder weather there meant it was confident flights would not be disrupted.

In Scotland, Prestwick and Edinburgh expected to run a normal service today despite predictions of freezing temperatures overnight.

In Ireland, a number of flights were cancelled yesterday and more are expected to be axed today. Aer Lingus has cancelled 22 flights between Ireland and the UK over the past two days.

Across Europe, airport bosses said they were confident of coping with heavy snow and ice despite the record-breaking cold snap that has caused more than 200 deaths.

In Germany, no airport has shut down operations this winter because of snow. As well as Munich, flights were expected to operate normally at Berlin’s Schoenefeld and Tegel airports, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart.

Most northern European airports are better equipped to deal with snow than Heathrow because of massive investment in fleets of clearing machines and stockpiles of de-icing equipment.

Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, France, Denmark and Belgium, where the Siberian cold front has brought record lows, were reporting a virtually normal service.

In Britain the Department for Transport said: ‘BAA have taken an operational decision with airlines to cancel some flights on the basis of the best available weather predictions and Ministers will be keeping in touch with them over the weekend to check that their decisions are proportionate and in the best interests of the travelling public.’

Both the AA and the RAC have urged motorists to stay at home and to avoid the increasingly treacherous road network. The AA attended 15,000 callouts yesterday, more than double the normal figure for a Saturday. Most involved flat batteries.

The Department for Transport said it had stockpiled 2.4 million tons of grit – one million more than last year – and said it would not run out as it has done on previous occasions.

Report by : Daily Mail

Category : World News

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