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50,000? Passengers Stranded at LHR


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British Airways flight grounded in Germany as the first snow of the season settled at Heathrow Airport / Getty

Exclusive: After scores of cancellations, delays and diversions, recovery could take a week


At 9pm on Sunday night, around 300 passengers waiting at Heathrow for British Airways flight 245 to Buenos Aires discovered they would be not be waking up in an Argentinian midsummer. Instead, they faced the prospect of having to sort out their own hotel rooms many miles away, or sleeping on the floor of Terminal 5.

Like 50,000 other BA passengers, they will start Monday far from where they planned to be, after the airline's operation juddered almost to a halt at Heathrow. More than 140 outbound short-haul flights, and 26 long-haul departures, were cancelled on Sunday. BA has cancelled a further 70 short-haul round trips on Monday, plus nine long-haul flights including departures to Rio, Tokyo and Los Angeles. An additional 15,000 people will be affected by these latest cancellations.

Departures from Europe’s busiest airport began to go wrong before dawn on Sunday. Torrential overnight rain meant that de-icing could not begin until the first wave of planes were ready to go. Delays quickly built up: the 7am to Geneva left four hours late. And as queues developed while sleet and snow fell, aircraft that had already been de-iced needed to be treated again as ice began to build up on their wings while they waited for clearance to depart.

BA operate an ambitious schedule, which most of the time works remarkably well. But not on Sunday. At 10am, a sweep of around 20 proactive cancellations was made by British Airways operations staff, to create “firebreaks” in the schedule in a bid to avoid further cancellations. Within an hour, that number had doubled. And quickly the first seriously wintry day at Heathrow became a bonfire of the schedules.

Other airlines were mildly affected, with Austrian Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa and Swiss cancelling flights to and from their hubs, but for BA — which has a majority of the slots at Heathrow — the unravelling was of an entirely different order of magnitude.


Initially passengers on long-haul flights waiting to leave Terminal 5, or at European airports heading for Heathrow, faced irritating delays exacerbated by hunger. From Athens, Frank Durrell tweeted: “Come on @British_Airways. 1 hour delayed boarding. 1.5 hours stuck in this plane waiting to leave. And now told we will be 4 hours late landing. Would have just gone back to hotel if I’d known at the start.

“And now no snacks available at all. No complimentary food, must buy M&S food and it ‘can’t be given away’. Pilot tried to get more snacks locally and couldn’t. Pilot wants to get us ‘vouchers on arrival’ but doesn’t think he can. Terrible service.”

Gradually, the scale of the problem became clear. With aircraft blocking stands, British Airways planes that did make it to Heathrow had to wait sometimes for hours to be unloaded. When space on the ground ran out, the diversions began.

Passengers from Newcastle got no further than Leeds-Bradford, where they were joined by confused travellers from Kiev and Warsaw. Back on Tyneside, Newcastle airport welcomed divertees from Paris, Reykjavik, Helsinki, Frankfurt and Athens; Frank Durrell tweeted once more: “You suck. Diverted us to Newcastle. Why didn’t you just let us stay in Athens and fly us back tomorrow?”

Passengers from Zurich, Zagreb, Vienna, Gibraltar, Nice and Madrid are mingling in Cardiff. Milan, Prague and Berlin passengers had an unexpected visit to Bournemouth, while along the road BA travellers from Geneva and Krakow congregated in Southampton. The late-night passengers from Istanbul flew around in circles over the Home Counties for a while, hopeful of landing, before diverting to Liverpool.

Long-haul inbound flights from Dubai, Mumbai and New York landed at Paris, Frankfurt and Dublin respectively. At times of disruption British Airways does everything it can to protect the long-haul schedule. Slots for smaller planes flying shorter distances are sacrificed to enable big aircraft to take large numbers of people across oceans. But at Heathrow on Sunday, even that principle had to be abandoned.

One by one, crews went “out of hours,” when it became no longer possible for them to fly the mission within legal limits. Three New York services were cancelled as well as two each to Dubai and Toronto, with many Asian flights also grounded including the key departures to Hong Kong and Singapore.

For each cancelled outbound departure, there is an equal number of inbound flights that have been grounded. While the passengers in Buenos Aires and other far-flung locations have plenty of warning of the cancellation, those closer to home do not enjoy the luxury of time or, often, information. 

Sarah Griffiths tweeted: “Parents stuck in Pisa airport for 6hrs and British_Airways has made 1 announcement & ignored all consumer rights. Rep’s done a runner?! They’re tired & freezing. Rubbish.”

The Independent has calculated 27,000 BA passengers are stranded in London, a further 20,000 stuck in European airports, and another 3,000 at airports elsewhere in the UK and neighbouring countries after their flights to Heathrow were diverted.

With so many planes and crews out of position, even if Monday’s conditions at Heathrow were perfect, it would take several days to get everyone where they needed to be. But sub-zero temperatures are forecast for the airport, and the flow rate is to be reduced — hampering BA’s efforts to get back on schedule and possibly leaving even more passengers out of position.

The airline is offering passengers booked to fly on Monday the option to re-book on alternative flights up to Monday December 18, free of charge.

British Airways is telling passengers: “Heathrow has experienced unpredicted severe adverse weather conditions and that is expected to continue into Monday.

“Temperatures have remained low, and safety is our number one priority, there is a requirement to de-ice every individual aircraft before it departs. We are sorry for the difficulties caused by the poor weather and will do all we can to minimise the effect it has on our operations.

“We apologise for the inconvenience, and we would like to assure customers that we are doing everything we can to get as many people away on their flights as possible.

“As a result of the forecast we have agreed with Heathrow Airport, National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and other airlines to reduce our flight schedule from Heathrow on Monday December 11.

“Please do not travel to the airport if your flight has been cancelled.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow airport remains open however we regret that weather across the UK is resulting in some passengers experiencing disruption to their travel arrangements. Airlines are responsible for ensuring their flights are fully de-iced before they are operated and this is resulting in some delays and cancellations.”

Why do planes need to be de-iced? 

A build-up of ice on an aircraft wings adds weight, increases drag and, crucially, changes their shape in a way that significantly reduces lift. It is thought to have been a factor in the 2009 crash of a Colgan Air flight from New York to Buffalo in which 49 people died; shortly before they lost control, the crew discussed a bulld-up of ice. In flight, it is dealt with by heating the critical surfaces, notably the leading edge of the wings. But before take-off any build up of ice must be removed from the outside, by spraying on a hot mix of propylene glycol and water. The procedure is time-limited, and in extreme conditions while de-icers work on one side of a plane the ice builds up on the other, just cleaned side.

At some airports prone to frosty conditions, a de-icing truck waits near the holding point for aircraft, close to the runway, so that the aircraft can be de-iced just before departure. But at Heathrow, BA — along with other airlines — de-ices at the stand. That practice may change after this latest extremely expensive and frustrating episod

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1 hour ago, boestar said:

50,000 passengers Stranded but not all are at LHR.  

It is a typical "Yellow Press" story with lots of added drama. Here is the followup from the same "News?" source. Mind you in these days of entitlement...........

British Airways weather meltdown: ARMED POLICE called in to escort angry passengers as 50,000 stranded around world

EXCLUSIVE: The airline had a disaster on Sunday, with hundreds of flights cancelled and many passengers stuck on the runway for hours

  • 01:41, 11 DEC 2017
  • UPDATED07:13, 11 DEC 2017
Passengers have complained about 'chaos' as they endure long waits, cancellations and diversions (Image: London News Pictures Ltd)

British Airways customers left furious by hundreds of cancelled flights and delays told of being confronted by armed police last night.

A customer told the Mirror how firearms officers turned up at the business lounge at Heathrow at around 11.30pm on Sunday night.

The airline initially said the airport sent them "to prevent any situation from escalating".

But a spokesman later insisted this was a misunderstanding and the armed police were simply "acting as escorts" as customers moved back through security.

An eyewitness said there "wasn't even a hint of a problem" and called it a "disgusting" way to treat customers.

At least 150 BA flights have been cancelled, both inbound and outbound of the UK, with many customers complaining of poor communication.

Some claimed to have spent up to 10 hours waiting on the runway to take off from Heathrow, before being told their flights were cancelled or delayed until Monday.

Many were last night trying to find hotel rooms or facing the prospect of sleeping on the floor at Terminal 5.

A passenger who asked not to be named told how armed police were called to the British Airways business lounge after his flight to Mumbai was cancelled.

He told the Mirror: "British Airways closed the first class lounge at 22.30 and everyone was asked to go to normal business lounge upstairs where food and all alcoholic drinks had been removed.

"At 23.00 we were told by lounge manager that we must be out of that lounge by 23.30.

"It was shortly after that when a number of armed police arrived in lounge.

"British Airways says this was a decision taken by Heathrow Airport to prevent any escalation of a situation.

"There was no situation to escalate!

"In fact the only problems I saw were at the gate where despite there being six or more British Airways staff, no information was being given at all about situation regarding delayed Mumbai flight which ultimately was being said to be a result of a lack of cleaners!"

When asked about armed police being called, British Airways said in a tweet: "Heathrow Airport made this decision to prevent any situation from escalating.

"I'm sorry you feel this action was unnecessary. "

"Ensuring the health and safety of all of Heathrow's customers is their number one priority."

A BA spokesperson later said the armed police "were not called upon to help with any problems, they simply offered their assistance as escorts to help customers leave as quickly as possible."

A similar incident appeared to have unfolded in Stockholm where a customer tweeted: "Riot police called in Stockholm everyone is furious, no BA staff, ten hours delay then you CANCEL."

Elsewhere, several passengers complained about flight BA065 from Heathrow to Nairobi.

It was supposed to take off at 10.10am on Sunday.

At 10pm last night customers confirmed it had been cancelled.

Russ tweeted to British Airways: "BA65 Nairobi. 6 hours at the gate followed by a trundle around the airport before cancelling.

"10.5 hours on a plane going nowhere with limited food and drink, and you LIED to us about the problem being caused by work at JKIA. No staff working, a night at LHR."

Rachel Harvey added: "flight to Nairobi cancelled. Kicked off plane after 10 hours on tarmac. "

"Bags still on plane. You don't book us a hotel. You have not told us when we will get on another flight. The only information I've had is "keep the receipts"! Seriously??"

According to The Independent's Simon Calder, the airline cancelled more than 140 long-haul flights and 26 short-haul flights on Sunday.

The problems were caused by torrential overnight rain which meant planes could not be de-iced until they were ready to go, it was reported.

This caused delays and then planes needed de-iced once again before take-off.

BA then began "firebreak" cancellations in the hope of freeing up the schedule.

But the crisis unravelled as aircraft blocked gates and those planes that were able to land took hours to unload.

Some flights were diverted more than 300 miles from Heathrow to Newcastle while others are in Cardiff and Bournemouth.

British Airways said it was looking into the reports of armed police being called to a business lounge at Heathrow.

In a statement the airline added: "We are very sorry that the severe weather conditions are continuing to disrupt our flights. Safety is always our priority, and our teams around the world are doing all they can to look after our customers while working tirelessly to get them to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.

"As the bad weather continues, we have agreed with Heathrow Airport, National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and other airlines to reduce our flight schedule from Heathrow today, Monday December 11.

"We're asking customers to check for information about their flights on ba.com before they set off for the airport, and not to come to the airport unless their flight is operating.

"We have put a flexible re-booking policy in place so that all customers due to fly from Heathrow today can re-book to travel on alternative flights until Monday December 18.

"We have called in additional staff to help re-book our customers onto the next available flights and will continue to provide refreshments and hotel accommodation for those who require it."

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By Janene Pieters on December 11, 2017 - 15:50

Snow at Schiphol Airport, 10 Dec 2017
Snow at Schiphol Airport, 10 Dec 2017. Photo: @Schiphol / Twitter

Update, 15:45 on 11 December 2017: One third of all flights were cancelled at Schiphol Airport due to the poor weather, the airport confirmed after 3:30 p.m. on Monday. "Due to extreme snow conditions, runway capacity is very limited," a spokesperson added on Twitter.

Meteorological institute KMNI issued a code red alert warning of extremely dangerous weather due to heavy snowfall in the Netherlands. The snow already resulted in the cancellation and delays of many flights at the Dutch airports. Passengers are advised to check their flight status before leaving for the airport, and take extra travel time to the airport into account.

KMNI warns that some places may see up to 15 centimeters of snow today. "Great danger of problems and injury due to slippery roads. Major risks for road users. Risk of large-scale disruption to public transport. Do not travel unless strictly necessary. Follow weather reports and warnings." the institute writes. 


"Due to expected snowfall many flights are canceled by the airlines", Schiphol warned on Twitter. "Before they make their way to Schiphol, travelers are advised to consult the latest status of their flight via the Schiphol website, Schiphol App, or to contact their airline." The airport's website already shows dozens of delayed and canceled flights. KLM alone canceled nearly 300 flights for today.

Rotterdam/The Hague airport currently lists five canceled arrivals, and two departures canceled for today and one tomorrow. "Due to the weather conditions, we expect possible delays and cancelations", the airport's website reads. "Also we would like to ask you take some extra time to travel to the airport. We advise you to check the actual flight information on our website frequently and to contact your airline."

Eindhoven Airport posted a similar warning on its website. The airport currently lists five canceled arrivals and two delays. A Ryanair flight from Prague and a Wizz Air flight from Warsaw were both diverted to Cologne, Germany. 

Maastricht Aachen Airport reports two arrival delays and one departure delay.

Belgium is also struggling under the snowy weather. Brussels Airport notified travelers not to come to the airport until further notice. "Brussels Airport advises passengers against coming to the airport today. Because of the adverse weather, numerous flights had to be canceled. Regularly check the status of your flight to see whether it will actually depart in the course of Monday 11 December and contact your airline for further information. If your flight was canceled, there is no point in coming to the airport. In that case you should contact your airline."

Rijkswaterstaat issued a renewed warning for motorists to stay off the roads today. NS advised travelers to go home as early as possible. 

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3 minutes ago, John S. said:

"Hey Kip - it is a good time to be retired, no?

Hi John,

Don't miss the "O-dark-thirty" departures from the house and the interesting winter drives to YYZ...nice to sit here and just watch the stuff come down and get behind the snowblower when I feel like it...yeh, it is a great feeling.

All the best to you and yours and have a Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.


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32 minutes ago, Rich Pulman said:

What am I missing? Torrential rain causes icing??? :Scratch-Head:

Thanks to the temperatures over Russia lately, I’ve had to de-ice at the gate in LHR three times in the past couple of weeks. It’s done in accordance with your TOBT so I’ve always received pushback clearance immediately after spraying and didn’t stop moving from taxi to takeoff clearance. It’s a pretty slick operation until you need to anti-ice. Then it can get rough, but luckily that’s very rare in Heathrow.

There must be more to this story than we’re getting from the mediocre media.

Your quote from the news articlehttp://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-airways-weather-meltdown-armed-11673950  is accurate and I too was wondering about that. However in another article 


On Sunday BA experienced particular problems de-icing planes – essential for flight safety – as freezing conditions followed torrential rain. Relatively benign weather forecasts for Heathrow meant BA did not start cancelling flights until late Sunday morning.

Some aircraft needed to be de-iced a second time after waiting to take off. As delays mounted through the day, some crew reached the safe cap on working hours, leading to further cancellations  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/11/british-airways-cancels-100-flights-snow-ice-delayed


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2 hours ago, Fido said:

When you read what b.s. the media puts out when they are reporting on something you know it makes me wonder how anyone can believe them when they report on politics.

They are blissful, as in ignorance is bliss as too are their readers.  We can judge their airline stories but how blissful are we when it comes to news that we are perhaps not familiar with?  :D

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