Passengers stuck at Europe airports


Snowplows work on the tarmac at Zaventem airport in Brussels (AP)

Passengers have spent Christmas Eve camped in airports in Paris and Brussels after new snowfall and shortages of de-icing fluid disrupted travel across Europe.

A safety alert about the security of a snow-laden terminal roof at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport made matters worse, with crowds asked to clear out of a section of Terminal 2E.

While travel in Britain was improving after days of headaches, snowfall stranded travellers in Ireland and Denmark and shut Dusseldorf airport in Germany for several hours.

To try to ease the pain of a Christmas under the glaring lights of an airport terminal, Paris’s airport authority planned to hand out gifts to children forced to sleep at Charles de Gaulle overnight.

The airport also got an early Christmas gift flown in from the US – two shipments of precious de-icing fluid to get planes off the snowy ground.

Security officers brought in 700 cots as well as blankets and floor mats, and extra rooms were reserved in nearby hotels. The airport turned up the heat and installed all-night police and ambulance patrols, said airport authority chief Pierre Graff.

In Brussels, the Red Cross was bringing in hundreds of cots for passengers spending the night at the airport. Airport spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse said they expected that several hundred passengers would remain stranded overnight.

France’s famed strikes played a role in Friday’s travel troubles as a walkout at a factory involved in the production of de-icing fluid exacerbated shortages, forcing France to import supplies.

Ramona Sansotta, a 23-year-old trying to get home to Genoa, spent Thursday night in Charles de Gaulle airport – only to see her flight cancelled again on Friday.

“They brought us some blankets, but no-one here could speak our language and we don’t speak French. So after we spent the whole night here they cancelled our flight again. And now we hope to get back home before Christmas,” she said.

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