Kiwis caught in Europe as winter bites

By Beck Vass

Hundreds of New Zealand travellers had their Christmas holiday plans disrupted by flights being cancelled, delayed or diverted by winter weather in London.

Last night, at least three Air New Zealand flights were affected after Heathrow Airport closed its runways due to ice.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the flights - each a Boeing 777 aircraft with a capacity of 370 passengers - had been "fairly full" of passengers because of Christmas.

Those affected aired their concerns on social media. Diane Gracie wrote on Air New Zealand's Facebook page that her boyfriend had been on the tarmac for six hours awaiting the departure of a flight meant to leave London for New Zealand yesterday.

Another, Gemma Bryant, wrote that her flight to New Zealand had been cancelled and she had been stuck on the M40 motorway and hadn't moved for nearly two hours.

The airline said last night there was little it could do but wait for updates from Heathrow, but staff were busy trying to make accommodation arrangements for diverted travellers.

"The situation's going to be constantly changing, we can't say when it's going to open."

The airline would be posting updates on its website and its Facebook page as soon as more was information was known.

Flight NZ39, which left Auckland early yesterday for London via Hong Kong, was diverted to Manchester and the airline sent passengers back to Heathrow by bus.

Heathrow's website said hundreds of staff were working in below-zero temperatures to remove 30 tonnes of snow from 200 parking stands - an effort made more difficult because they were working around planes.

About 40 per cent of flights were also cancelled at Frankfurt airport in Germany and at Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Passengers slept in makeshift dormitories at the Paris airport and at Amsterdam's Schiphol, while staff at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London handed out foam mats and foil blankets to the stranded. Some fashioned improvised beds from clothes, chairs and stacked suitcases.

- NZ Herald

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