British Airways and other transatlantic airlines were forced to suspend flights to Europe as London Heathrow airport remains closed for a second day by freak snow storms
By Robin Rowe
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 12/19/2010 – For the second day, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic and all other flights to London Heathrow airport were canceled. The largest airport in the United Kingdom, and busiest airport in the European Union in terms of passenger traffic, is paralyzed by freak storms and heavy snow that some attribute to Global Warming.
Christmas travelers are discovering they can expect to be stranded for days, with airports across Europe being effected by the storms. Rebooking displaced passengers quickly is proving impossible as many flights were already fully booked for the holidays. There are no seats available.
“The recent severe weather conditions have severely affected all flights in and out of the UK,” says a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson. “We’re working hard to re establish our flying program and get our passengers on their way during this most critical time of year. However, as a result of the extended closure of London Gatwick, and particularly Heathrow runways, throughout the weekend of the 18th and 19th December, a number of our aircraft are out of position. It will be 24 to 48 hours before our schedules are completely back to normal.”
“Just to stress, you must confirm your flight is operating before coming to Heathrow,” says a Heathrow spokesperson. “Heathrow will be open and limited arrivals and departures will operate from 6am Monday.” Flight service through the smaller London Gatwick airport was restored today. Everyone traveling through Europe is calling the airlines trying to find a way to make it home for Christmas.
“We have extra staff on the phones, but still have very high call volumes,” says a British Airways spokesperson. “Please contact us only if you’ve been affected by our announcements and you need to rebook your flight. Monday’s flying schedule until midday is now updated on ba.com.” Because all British Airways flights to Europe hub through London, all BA travelers to Europe are being delayed.
British Airways customers scrambling to rebook canceled flights from the United States faced phone hold times of three hours today, when they could get through. When heavy Internet traffic crushed the main British Airways website at ba.com today, savvy fliers tipped off by Twitter pointed their browsers to British Airways more lightweight website www.ba2go.com. That was designed for use by mobile phones. Customers found they could rebook flights online there. However, they didn’t like their options. They were told the soonest available flight to London from the U.S. would arrive Christmas Day.
Arriving on Christmas Day in London is more uncomfortable than many U.S. travelers realize. They not only spend Christmas Eve in the air but will arrive on the one day of the year when almost all of London public transportation is closed for holiday. Heathrow Christmas passengers can take the Express rail line the fourteen miles to Paddington Station in central London. However, that’s just about the only transportation. Arriving in London on Christmas, visitors will find themselves on foot, with no London Underground or taxis operating anywhere.
Twitter is where travelers are finding the latest updates of official announcements: