Snowtime in Northern Ireland: Flights cancelled, Odyssey gig postponed, traffic at a crawl...
Heavy snow led to cancelled flights and freezing roads, hampering the Christmas travel plans for thousands across Northern Ireland
Those whose flights were cancelled yesterday were warned they may not be able to get new flights quickly because of the high volume of demand at Christmas.
Belfast International Airport was closed between 5am and 8am while snow was cleared from its runways, but the knock-on effects were felt all day.
There was travel misery etched across the faces of passengers as the first major snowfall of the winter saw 10 flights cancelled and most of the rest delayed.
A flight to Newark, a popular destination for those travelling on to New York, was delayed for almost nine hours.
Serious snowstorms across the world exasparated the situation: the east coast of the United States saw some of the worst blizzards in history and hundreds of flights were cancelled into New York while airports in Washington, Baltimore and Boston were also experiencing severe problems.
In Europe, snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures severely disrupted air, rail and road transport.
Five flights both inbound and outbound were cancelled including Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Glasgow and London Luton.
Chicago-based pop rock band Sea Bird were among the disappointed passengers who had been hoping to travel to Amsterdam.
The group whose track, Joy to the World, was recently featured on US soap Grey’s Anatomy were playing in Ballymena on Saturday and were due to play in Amsterdam last night, however the flight chaos pulled that schedule apart.
Paul McNeilly of Fuel Events told the Belfast Telegraph if the band could not make it to Amsterdam they would miss their connection to Chicago to get home for Christmas.
“Continental Airlines were very helpful but any seats on flights going to the States are filling up by the second,” he said.
“Within 30 seconds, 11 seats on a flight to New York went down to two. The band had a great gig in Ballymena but this is really overshadowing it.”
Passengers from the cancelled flights were put up in hotels last night in hope they could get a flight today.
Gea Van Der Veen from Hoogeveen in the Netherlands had been visiting Belfast for an international town council conference.
She said most of her colleagues had been able to fly from Dublin while she was the only one from her delegation who could not get home.
“I just hope I am able to get home. They say there is going to be even more snow,” she said.
Ikrame Rahmoumi from Zwolle in the Netherlands was travelling home after studying in Belfast.
“Even if I could get the flight, the trains are stopped so I would be stuck at the airport there,” she said.
Phil Thompson from south Belfast was beginning to rethink his short break to London to see a Sex Pistols tribute band at the Brixton Academy.
“They are not able to tell us when the plane will take off, I just hope there are no other delays because I am utterly fed up waiting around.”
In Belfast International, EasyJet flights to and from Glasgow, Barcelona, Luton, Amsterdam and Paris were cancelled. A transatlantic flight was held up for nine hours while other flights faced delays of up to four hours.
An easyJet spokesman said: “”We sincerely apologise to customers who have been affected by this disruption, and are doing everything we can to minimise the delays and cancellations.”
Meanwhile the roads to Belfast International Airport were lined with cars as people waited for their loved ones to make it home to the province for Christmas.
Laughs were thin on the ground for up to 4,000 comedy fans after Mock the Week panelist Russell Howard postponed a gig at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena last night due to his difficulties travelling from snow-struck Manchester Airport, which was closed until yesterday afternoon.
There was disruption at other UK airports from Glasgow Airport to Bristol Airport as all struggled to cope with snow on their own runways, as well as the knock-on effect of wintry weather at other airports.
It wasn’t just air travel which ran into problems. Morning sailings of the Rathlin-Ballycastle ferry was cancelled though strong north-west winds rather than snow was to blame. Later crossings ran as normal. The roads were treacherous, particularly in the west of the province. Motorists reported slippery patches between Enniskillen, Fivemiletown and the Clogher Valley.