Snow misery eases but anger remains

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Snow ploughs wait to clear the snow from Manchester Airport's second runway

Critics have rounded on the UK’s inability to cope with the big freeze as passenger backlogs began to ease.

Thousands of exhausted air travellers were finally moving at Heathrow Airport, but Mayor of London Boris Johnson said BAA had “very serious lessons” to learn from the chaos.

Heathrow, the world’s largest international airport, has made headlines for days as massive amounts of flights were cancelled because of the snow and ice and passengers were left stranded.

BMI chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer claimed the airport “did not have enough de-icing fluid” – something a Heathrow spokesman strenuously denied.

Meanwhile under-fire BAA chief executive Colin Matthews announced he would forgo his annual bonus. Mr Matthews said: “I have decided to give up my bonus for the current year. My focus is on keeping people moving and rebuilding confidence in Heathrow.”

Mick Rix, the GMB union’s national officer for the aviation industry, previously said paying him “a huge bonus” would be “an absolute slap in the face to the thousands of people who have been stranded at Heathrow”.

Britain’s transport network was largely paralysed this week by heavy snowfall and freezing conditions. But travellers were given a glimmer of hope on Wednesday as airports began to operate close to capacity and, according to Network Rail, 70% of trains ran on time. After the Eurostar was crippled, a company spokesman said it was running 90% of its service.

The news was largely echoed around the UK with the vast majority of regional airports saying business was almost back to normal. All airports continued to tell customers to check with their airline if their flight was operating.

Sean Tipton of the Association of British Travel Agents said: “The travel industry is very pleased that both Heathrow and Gatwick are returning to normal service. However, there will still be some delays and cancellations due to the many aircraft being out of position.”

The travel improvement coincided with weather forecasters predicting relatively mild weather in the run up to Christmas Day. Today the majority of the UK should stay dry but cold with slight snow showers in northern and eastern parts of the country.

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