Video: Big chill leaves hundreds of airline passengers stranded
HUNDREDS of airline passengers travelling to and from Ireland were left marooned yesterday after 70 flights were cancelled due to unprecedented snowfall across Europe.
London Heathrow, Newcastle Airport, Paris Beauvais and Rome's Ciampino Airport were hardest hit by the deep winter chill -- with over six inches of snow reported in many parts of Britain.
Heathrow airport cancelled half its scheduled 1,300 flights yesterday.
An estimated 400 transatlantic passengers bound for London were also forced into unscheduled pit stops at Irish airports yesterday.
Eight transatlantic flights travelling from the US to Heathrow were redirected to Shannon Airport because of freezing temperatures.
Some were in UK airspace, or on approach to London, when the order came to redirect their flights to Ireland.
"Three British Airways flights have been diverted to Dublin and a further eight flights were diverted to Shannon," a spokesperson from Dublin Airport said yesterday.
Almost 500 passengers from flights bound for Miami and Atlanta were sent to local hotels in the Shannon and Limerick region last night. They are expected to recommence their journey later today.
The unscheduled arrivals provided welcome mid-winter business for the midwest with ground handling agents, bus operators, fuel companies and hotels all benefiting.
Aer Lingus cancelled 16 flights from Ireland to London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, while Ryanair cancelled 54 flights over the weekend -- the majority from Paris Beauvais which was inaccessible due to heavy snow.
On Saturday, Ryanair cancelled more than 30 flights as a result of snow in Britain and on the continent, particularly in Italy, where Rome has had its heaviest snowfall in over 25 years.
The cold snap has claimed the lives of more than 260 people across Europe.
Meanwhile, Met Eireann says temperatures will drop sharply this week across Ireland -- however snow remains unlikely.
"I don't see any prospect of snow over the coming days. We're very much at the edge of things in Ireland; the snow in England is more towards the east and south-east of the country," said Gerald Fleming of Met Eireann last night.
"It will get colder towards the end of the week, but it will be more dry and frosty," he predicted.
Elsewhere, the freezing weather conditions in Britain over the weekend could cost Fermanagh GAA in the region of €10,000. The Ernesiders are in London to take part in a National Football League match. But the division four clash was called off yesterday after an inspection by officials deemed the pitch unplayable.
Counties travelling to London get a grant from Croke Park of €10,000 to cover transport and costs but the team are unlikely to receive funding for the rescheduled fixture which is expected to take place in March.
"At the moment it's not clear when the game will be played, or what the situation is regarding getting a grant. We'll have to wait until the Competitions Control Committee makes a decision," said Fermanagh county secretary Tom Boyle.