Heavy snowfall in Europe, thousands stranded

Heavy snowfall in Europe, thousands stranded

A dozen flights bound for London from the UAE were cancelled on Sunday as Heathrow Airport remained shut leaving thousands of frustrated passengers stranded worldwide.

By Lily B. Libo-on And Anwar Ahmad

Published: Mon 20 Dec 2010, 1:02 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:57 PM

Ahmed Al Haddabi, Senior Vice-President, Airports Operations at ADAC, told Khaleej Times that five flights were cancelled in Abu Dhabi while an official at the Dubai International Airport, who requested anonymity, confirmed seven flights were cancelled. Both said that the cancellations also included return flights to the UAE.

The official at the Dubai airport said that there were no signs inside the airport of any groups or crowds of stranded passengers as the “airlines must have taken care of them”.

Ahmed said that the airport remained fully operational for other destinations around the world. Most of the cancelled flights were on the London sector, while other destinations in Europe witnessed no disruption.

“All passengers were accommodated in hotels at the airport and across the cities. These flights were operated by different airlines and were flying to/from London,” Ahmed said.

An ADAC team, Abu Dhabi police, passport control and other officials helped accommodate around 600 passengers stranded in the capital. The luggage and belongings of passengers were temporarily stored at the airports, Ahmed added.

Both the UAE flag carriers, Etihad and Emirates airline, told Khaleej Times that their flights were disrupted since Saturday, December 18, and were either cancelled, delayed or diverted.

Tim Clark, President of Emirates airline, said that more than 900 passengers on board two Emirates flights that departed from Dubai for Heathrow on Saturday were brought back to Dubai as Heathrow and Gatwick were ordered closed.

“Emirates was surprised to be told by the British Airports Authority (BAA) that after two of our flights from Dubai to London Heathrow were fully on route, they were not going to be allowed to land because the airport was closed. This is despite the fact that we operated these flights in compliance with the BAA requirements that Heathrow Airport would accept flight arrivals after 11am local time. This has caused enormous inconvenience to the 900 plus passengers on-board, in addition to those who have already been stranded in the UK and Europe,” Tim said.

He further said that Emirates cancelled three additional Heathrow flights on Sunday (December 19), which were also fully booked. “This will have the same impact on the return flights to Dubai. Emirates’ ability to mount the extra sections required to recover the enormous backlog is very limited and we will be discussing this issue with the BAA.”

Disruption of Etihad flights also started on Saturday, December 18, with EY19 Abu Dhabi-London being diverted to Manchester and EY17 Abu Dhabi -London diverted to Frankfurt.

Clark Thomas, spokesperson for Etihad, said that the flight that departed Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning brought back its passengers to Abu Dhabi on the advice of the BAA.

“EY18 London-Abu Dhabi and EY20 London-Abu Dhabi, which have been delayed until further notice, will depart as soon as the Heathrow airport reopens,” he said.

Three more flights were affected on Sunday. The EY11 Abu Dhabi - London was delayed by four hours; EY12 London-Abu Dhabi was delayed by two-and-a-half hours and the EY878 Abu Dhabi — Narita, which was scheduled for Monday, was also cancelled.

Etihad said that the flights, which returned to Abu Dhabi, had 330 transit passengers. The Emirates president said that all other flights in and out of the UK were operational and that all passengers of cancelled flights in Dubai were provided with hotel accommodation and food.

A spokesperson of the British Airways said that the specific number of passengers affected could not be released as it would be a commercially sensitive information. “Customers should check on www.ba.com for the very latest information about their specific flight and if their flight has been cancelled they can either chose to rebook on an alternative flight or they can claim a full refund,” the spokesperson said.

British Airways has booked thousands of hotel rooms for its stranded customers in the London area. “All other long and short haul British Airways flights from London Heathrow before 1800 hrs are cancelled as a result of the closure today (Sunday). We do not anticipate any flight arrivals at London Heathrow.”

The spokesperson said that British Airways will run as many flights as possible at London Gatwick airport although there will be a reduced operation on Sunday.

Air France spokesperson said that the airline’s flights on Sunday were disrupted by snowfall and icy conditions in Paris area.

“French Civil Aviation Authorities have limited the number of flights for all airlines. On Sunday, Air France operated 100 per cent of our long-haul flights, and just cancelled some domestic and European flights.”

A spokesperson of Lufthansa said that all flights from the UAE, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are on schedule with no delays or cancellations so far.

“Since the weather is expected to get even worse in London, Lufthansa has been forced to operate to a special timetable, in which numerous flights on German and European routes into and out of Frankfurt will have to be cancelled. This measure is necessary in order to reinstate flight operations on their customary stable basis. Lufthansa long-haul flights, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are not affected.”


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