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Air traffic improving across Europe

Hundreds of travellers got their own special Christmas present - a plane flight after spending the night curled up on hard airport floors in Brussels and Paris.

Air traffic returned to near normal at Paris's main airport, Charles de Gaulle, where hundreds were stuck overnight and staff handed out Christmas puppets and chocolates to stranded families.

Snowfall and severe shortages of de-icers meant hundreds of flights were cancelled at Charles de Gaulle and other European airports. But sunny skies and two shipments of de-icing fluid from the US helped Charles de Gaulle rebound.

"There were a couple of people screaming and shouting and fighting, but we all handle stress and problems differently," said Gigi Zagora, 27, from Johannesburg, South Africa, who was stuck overnight at the Paris airport. "(I sought a) certain type of peace to say, 'OK, well, there is nothing I can do'."

Flight screens showed only a few delays on Saturday in Paris. Children who slept in terminals overnight clutched their new toys and with other weary travellers eagerly queued to board flights.

In Brussels, about 500 stranded passengers spent Christmas Eve at the airport after 10in (25cm) of snow fell early on Saturday, the heaviest snowstorm in the Belgian capital since 1964.

"I've never had such Christmas before," said Ron Van Kooe, who slept in the terminal. "It's one not to forget, actually. But also a lesson for the future to never book a flight on this date."

A Brussels airport spokesman said the situation had returned to normal by Saturday afternoon and that remaining stranded passengers were on their way out.

In Germany, the situation in the skies and on the rails improved, after Duesseldorf airport was closed for several hours on Friday and many trains were delayed.

French transport officials went to the airport on Friday and Saturday to try to calm tensions and defuse criticism that Paris was not well prepared enough for the wintry weather.

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