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Updated: December 22, 2010 20:24 IST

Travel chaos eases in Europe, Heathrow still hit

AP
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A young boy reads his book as passengers wait in the departures area of Terminal 3 at London's Heathrow Airport as travel chaos continues due to the adverse weather on Tuesday. Photo: AP.
A young boy reads his book as passengers wait in the departures area of Terminal 3 at London's Heathrow Airport as travel chaos continues due to the adverse weather on Tuesday. Photo: AP.

Heathrow’s boss announced on Wednesday he would give up his hefty bonus this year after the world’s busiest international airport was crippled by snowy conditions. Air and train travel throughout Europe finally began to return to normal.

Temperatures have picked up in Britain and about 70 percent of Heathrow’s planned departures, some 900 flights, are expected to operate on Wednesday. Extra crews are working to remove stubborn ice from the site, after an unusually frigid winter triggered days of chaos and misery for those seeking to travel elsewhere for Christmas.

Heavy criticism of the airport’s inability to cope with snow prompted Colin Matthews, the chief executive of operator BAA, to announce he would forgo his bonus and keep his focus on “keeping people moving and rebuilding confidence in Heathrow.” BAA said Mr. Matthews’ salary and bonuses came to 944,000 pounds ($1.46 million) in 2009.

Although many passengers finally got on the move on Wednesday, some were still stranded and bitter about Heathrow’s management.

“We kept asking questions,” said Michelle Sorrell, who was waiting for information with her husband and two children. “We were given some foam mattresses and a couple of blankets and the rest was up to us.”

Airport officials placed two tents outside Terminal 3 to handle overflow passengers, but crowds were smaller and only one was used. Computer screens there showed 11 out of about 50 incoming flights had been cancelled.

Germany’s Frankfurt airport said schedules were slowly returning to normal after several days of widespread delays caused by winter weather. About 70 flights were cancelled on Wednesday out of a daily total of about 1,300, a substantial improvement over the 550 cancellations on Tuesday.

The French government said 15 percent of the flights from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris would be cancelled on Wednesday because of the winter weather.

Eurostar, which offers train services between England, France and Belgium, said routes were operating a near-normal schedule. Still it urged only customers with tickets to show up at terminals, after facing raucous crowds of thousands at ticket halls earlier this week.

Extreme cold temperatures continued to plague parts of Europe.

Denmark experienced its coldest night in 29 years with —8.5 F (—22.5 C) measured in Holbaek, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Copenhagen. Still, Copenhagen’s international airport expected a normal day.

Snow stopped falling in Ireland at around midnight and Dublin Airport pressed hard to catch up after losing most of Tuesday when 90,000 tons of snow had to be cleared from the runways. Aer Lingus leased 10 additional planes to operate extra flights to Europe and the United States and clear the backlog of delayed customers today. Ryanair said its flights were at full operations.

The snow also affected Ireland’s most famous rock band. U2 stars Bono and the Edge had their return from a gig in Australia disrupted and ended up having to take a four-hour train journey to Dublin after landing in Cork. Fellow passengers largely left them alone, thinking they were members of a U2 ‘tribute’ band.

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