For the fifth consecutive night, several hundred stranded passengers slept on camping beds at Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt as the authorities struggled to cope with the tension building up among those still unable to catch a flight.
The airport operator Fraport has been trying to improve the services for stranded passengers and offered them free drinks and snacks after a brawl at Lufthansa’s check-in counter last Saturday.
About 570 flights out of 1,300 flights were cancelled on Tuesday and the airport was shut down for more than three hours after unexpectedly heavy snowfall blocked the runways and frustrated efforts to keep aircraft free of ice.
Even after the airport resumed its operations, some of the flights were delayed by more than six hours, airport officials said.
The officials expressed fears that the time is running out for stranded passengers to reach their home or holiday destinations before Christmas.
Even if the airport resumes normal operations on Wednesday, it will take several days to clear the backlog built up during over the past few days and some of the stranded passengers may be still in Frankfurt during Christmas, they said.
About 30 incoming long-distance flights could not land in Frankfurt because of the temporary closure and they were diverted to the country’s second largest airport in Munich.
Over 10,000 air travellers were affected by the diversion of flights, according to Munich airport officials.
Snow chaos and flight disruption in Frankfurt also hit a number of domestic flights from Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.
The European air traffic control authority Eurocontrol estimated snow and freezing conditions on Tuesday forced the cancellation of over 1,000 flights across Europe.
Besides the Frankfurt airport, the worst affected by the snow chaos was London’s Heathrow airport, where more than half the flights were cancelled until Wednesday.
However, Europe’s largest airport reportedly plans to operate two-third of its scheduled flights today after reopening one of its two main runways.
Some flights were cancelled on Tuesday at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which also was hit hard by the snow chaos, but the overall situation there has improved.
Heavy snow again disrupted the train services of the German railways, which reported several cancellations and long delays.
Railway passengers in Germany are also facing the additional problem of overcrowded trains, as an increasing number of air travellers, who could not get a flight, are resorting to trains.
The German railways announced that it will deploy ten additional long-distance express trains on major north-south and east-west routes from Wednesday to cope with a surge in Christmas holiday travel expected in the coming days.
Hundreds of stranded air travellers in Britain have been trying to get out of the country by means of the ferry services across the English Channel or by taking the Eurostar train linking London with Paris and Brussels.
But many passengers had to wait for several hours to catch the train because the Eurostar is operating only a ‘limited service’ after it was ordered to reduce its speed out of safety concern, a spokesman said.