Europe travel chaos eases but pain re­mains

The Pak Banker - - International -

LONDON: Air­line and in­ter­na­tional train ser­vices were limp­ing back to­wards nor­mal in parts of Europe on Wed­nes­day, but the lin­ger­ing ef­fects of ice and snow that caused wide­spread chaos still weighed on sched­ules.

The dis­rup­tions to air­lines and high-speed trains in con­ti­nen­tal Europe, and link­ing Bri­tain to the con­ti­nent, cre­ated travel chaos for tens of thou­sands of trav­ellers in the busy Christ­mas pe­riod fol­low­ing heavy week­end snow­falls.

They also brought calls for leg­is­la­tion to force air­ports to deal more ef­fec­tively with snow and other bad weather.

Euro­pean Union trans­port chief Siim Kallas said he was con­sid­er­ing forc­ing air­ports to pro­vide a min­i­mum level of in­fra­struc­ture sup­port dur­ing se­vere weather. London's Heathrow, the world's busiest in­ter­na­tional air­port, and Frank­furt Air­port, the biggest on the con­ti­nent, said on their web­sites that op­er­a­tions were re­turn­ing to nor­mal af­ter se­vere dis­rup­tions. Wolf­gang Prock­Schauer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of air­line BMI, owned by Lufthansa, ac­cused BAA of be­ing un­pre­pared for the heavy snow at Heathrow. "What is re­ally in­cred­i­ble is that 10 cm (4 ins) of snow closed the air­port down for two days and then it op­er­ated at one-third ca­pac­ity," he told the Times news­pa­per. "BAA was not pre­pared. It did not have enough de-ic­ing fluid." A spokesman for BAA, which is owned by Spain's Fer­rovial, de­nied there had been a de-icer is­sue at Heathrow and said lessons would be learnt.

But he added: "This was un­prece­dented weather which closed most of north­ern Europe's air­ports." Heathrow was sched­uled to op­er­ate 70 per­cent of a nor­mal day's ser­vice, about 800 flights, but it was still ad­vis­ing pas­sen­gers not to come to Heathrow un­less they had con­firmed flights, the spokesman said.

"We're hop­ing by the end of the day we'll be up to full op­er­a­tion," he said.

Heathrow re­opened its sec­ond run­way on Tues­day, of­fer­ing a ray of hope for thou­sands of pas­sen­gers stranded in de­par­ture halls, some for days in scenes that Bri­tish news­pa­pers said re­sem­bled refugee camps.

"Air­lines are cur­rently op­er­at­ing a sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced sched­ule while they move di­verted air­craft and crew back into po­si­tion," BAA said on its web­site.

Bri­tish Air­ways said that, in line with a di­rec­tive from BAA, it would op­er­ate only a third of its nor­mal flight sched­ule at Heathrow un­til 6 a.m. on Thurs­day. "It will take some time to re­build an op­er­a­tion of our size and com­plex­ity at our hub air­port, Heathrow," the air­line said on its web­site. -Reuters

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