Airport operations limp back to normal in snow-hit Europe

Continental Europe's largest air hub in Frankfurt, which was almost paralysed by several days of heavy snowfall, said it is now back to its normal schedule, even though around 50 out of 860 planned flights had to be cancelled.

The airport had cancelled more than 600 daily flights when the flight disruptions reached their peak last week.

The last remaining passengers among around 3,500 air travellers stranded in Frankfurt since the snow chaos began a week ago, boarded planes bound for their destinations, an airport spokesman said.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, where several hundred stranded travellers spent the Christmas eve at the terminals, the situation is returning to normal, according to airport officials.

But there were still some cancellations and long delays because the supplies of the chemical to de-ice the aircraft ran out and the airport authorities had to get it from other countries.

Most of around 2,000 stranded travellers in Paris finally managed to catch a flight yesterday, the officials said.

The airport authorities gave food and Christmas presents to several hundred of them, who stayed overnight at the airport, and also organised a Catholic mass for them on Christmas day on one of the terminals.

At London's Heathrow airport, where the extreme weather forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights leaving thousands of travellers stranded, the situation has improved significantly, according to airport officials.

The airport is operating more than 90 per cent of its schedule and only very few flights were cancelled yesterday, the officials said.
The cancellations were mainly due to the problems at airports elsewhere in Europe, they said.

The Brussels airport, which closed one of its two runways after heavy snowfall on Friday and cancelled a number of flights, also said its operations were returning to normal.
Germany's second largest airport in Munich as well as the airports in Berlin, Hamburg and Duesseldorf said their operations too are back to normal.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall and blizzards caused massive disruption of train services in northern and eastern Germany.

Snow-blocked railway lines and frozen overhead power lines forced the cancellation or long delays of several long distance trains, especially in the northern coastal areas and on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where 30 centimetres of snow was recorded overnight.

In the state of Saxony Anhalt, four long-distance trains got stuck in thick snow and it took several hours for snow clearing teams using snow ploughs to free the trains and to clear the tracks.

Train services were delayed or cancelled also in the states of Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Baden Wuerttemberg.

The Eurostar train service linking London with Brussels and Paris shut down its operation completely yesterday due to problems related to snow and freezing conditions.

The Anglo-French rail company, which was rocked by a week of delays and cancellations, said it plans to run a close-to-normal schedule today.

German authorities reported that in spite of the heavy snowfall on Christmas day, a widely anticipated traffic chaos on the roads and highways stayed away because most of the people preferred to enjoy the "white Christmas" by staying at home.

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