Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nightmare before Christmas at No-Go Heathrow; Flights to Run Later in Bid to Clear Backlog of Stranded Passengers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nightmare before Christmas at No-Go Heathrow; Flights to Run Later in Bid to Clear Backlog of Stranded Passengers

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Prigg, Dick Murray and Benedict Moore-Bridger

HEATHROW airport cancelled all shorthaul flights today in a bid to clear the backlog of passengers that has built up over the last three days.

The Transport Secretary is also set to relax the rules regarding night flights to reduce the numbers of travellers who face being stuck in the capital over Christmas.

"Operating hours will be permitted to continue until 1am (instead of 11pm) and arrivals for repatriation flights will be allowed throughout the night," said Philip Hammond.

As forecasters predicted further heavy snowfall over the next few days, passengers who have been stuck at Heathrow since Saturday described conditions as "like a refugee camp".

A major inquiry was launched today into how the airport failed to cope with the snow and ice. Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA which runs the airport, said he "couldn't be more sorry" at how Heathrow had let people down.

Mr Hammond pledged to investigate the chaos, and to examine how passengers had been treated.

"Most of what I am hearing is a sense of outrage about the way they were treated at Heathrow," he said.

Hundreds of passengers bedded down at the airport last night, the third some had slept on lounge floors.

At Terminal 5, airport officials handed out vouchers for food and drink. A group of students from America, who have been in England for four months on a study programme, will not be able to fly back to Chicago until Christmas Eve. Because many will need further onward flights home, they may miss Christmas Day with their families. After arriving at Heathrow in time for a 2.30am flight on Saturday, they face spending nearly a week at the airport. Chelsea DuBose, 19, from Austin, Texas, said: "It will be the first Christmas I have spent without my family and I am not happy. …

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