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Another day of plane misery

By Claire Regan

Christmas travellers battling to make it home to Northern Ireland in time for family festivities were today hoping to avoid yet another day of airport chaos - with continuing freezing fog leading to scores more flight cancellations.

While the situation was returning to normal at the province's main airports last night, the outlook remained bleak in other parts of the UK, where dense fog was expected to cloak major airports for the fourth day in a row.

With forecasters warning that the heavy fog may stay until at least Christmas Day, particularly in the worst hit areas of south east England, it looked likely that Northern Ireland folk trying to make it home from some London airports will face inevitable delays and possibly cancellations.

On Wednesday, for the second day running, Heathrow Airport was the worst hit, with around 350 flights cancelled as air traffic controllers limited services because of the bad weather.

Yesterday, British Airways axed 200 flights and announced it was cancelling all domestic services in and out of Heathrow.

BA was able to operate long- haul services, but some departing passengers faced delays of several hours on these flights.

Heathrow's second-busiest airline, bmi, scrapped more than 40 flights at the west London airport yesterday, adding to the widespread chaos.

There were also knock-on cancellations and delays at the George Best Belfast City Airport, City of Derry Airport and Belfast International Airport yesterday.

At the City Airport, services from Birmingham, Gatwick and Southampton were cancelled and there were numerous delays.

At Aldergrove, flights were running relatively smoothly apart from one cancellation to the Cardiff service and some delays to other domestic routes.

The managers of the City Airport and City of Derry Airport last night said backlogs were gradually being cleared.

One woman who hoped to make it back to Belfast was Rosalind Rogers, head of communications at the University of Ulster. She was stranded in London on Wednesday night and was trying again yesterday afternoon to make it home after re-booking.

"I'm hoping lunchtime is going to be the best window if the fog is ever going to lift," she said.

West Belfast Hollyoaks star Gerard McCarthy, who plays Kris Fisher in the soap, was stuck in Liverpool but was trying to make it home in time for his father's 50th birthday party via Manchester last night.

At Heathrow yesterday, passengers waited in freezing conditions and spoke of their despair at having their Christmas travel plans wrecked.

Offered blankets and hot drinks by BA staff, they told of how they might not be able to spend the festive periods with their families.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said she was struggling to get to Sweden to see her 87-year-old father who is dying of cancer.

Belfast Telegraph


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