Travel chaos as snow freezes Europe

Last updated 11:01 22/01/2013

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Freezing weather is continuing to paralyse the UK as snow storms start spreading west into Europe.

British commuters fought to get to work as airlines and train operators struggled to deal with a blanket of snow and ice, while thousands of schools were closed, forcing parents to stay at home to look after children.

London's Heathrow airport has cancelled 10 percent of flights because of snow, about half the number cut on Sunday, and said there could be further disruption with more snowfall expected.

"Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations. Because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights," a Heathrow spokesman said.

A spokeswoman from Cathay Pacific Airways said most of its flights from Heathrow to New Zealand went as planned.

"What seemed to happen is they cancelled a lot of short haul flights, but mostly let the long haul go," she said.

"We had one trip, a flight through Hong Kong, cancelled on Sunday."

She said it was a 777 plane, which carries up to 275 passengers, and it was "a fairly full flight."

She said four flights leave to and from London each day, so the passengers would have been put onto the other flights as soon as possible.

The airline is closely watching the weather conditions in London, and flights are operating as normal.

Cathay Pacific said on its website flights are still subject to change, so passengers should check their flight details before they leave.

Rebooking charges have been waived.

A spokeswoman from Air New Zealand said only one flight leaves Heathrow for New Zealand each week, and it departed on schedule.

London's second airport, Gatwick, said delays and some flight cancellations were likely because of the weather.

Two Greek passengers told Reuters they would be stranded at Gatwick for the next 24 hours with no money after snow delayed their train, meaning they had missed their flight.

"They don't care about us, we told them we need somewhere to live until tomorrow and they just looked at us and said 'Oh'," said psychologist Georgina Kourousiakli, 24, sitting with her friend Fay Sakellariou, 24, who was wrapped in a red blanket.

"We don't have any money to eat or buy anything ... we can't call home. I see many people who have missed their flights. "We're quiet but angry."

Parts of Europe were also struggling with the cold blast.

Yesterday, airlines scrapped flights in France, Germany and the Netherlands as snow blanketed the region, with more forecast.

Almost half of all flights in Paris were cancelled and France's SNCF rail firm announced delays of up to 40 minutes on many lines as drivers cut speed in a safety measure.

Tens of thousand of homes lost power in southwestern France.

Emergency services were drafted in to rescue around 100 people from an urban train carriage that got stuck on a track which passes in open air over the Seine river in Paris, said Frederic Grosjean, a spokesman for city's emergency services.

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- Agencies

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