SAA reopens flights to Heathrow

2010-12-20 13:32

SA Airways (SAA) planned to fly to London’s Heathrow airport tonight following the go-ahead from British aviation authorities who have had to manage transport chaos caused by severe snow.

“We have received word from the authorities in London Heathrow, that Terminal One will open today and so SAA will be flying out of London and then back,” said SAA spokesman Fani Zulu.

The airline would first allow people booked onto tonight’s flight to board, and would then try to accommodate people who could not fly in the last two days, depending on how many seats were available.

Hence, people who were unable to fly out on the last two days, should be available at the airport in case there is a seat available.

Preference would be given to those who had waited the longest.

On December 18, the airport informed travellers that snow and adverse weather conditions had resulted in many cancelled flights and a build-up of delays.

BAA, the authority that manages the UK’s main airports, said today that Heathrow airport would be open and operating a limited schedule of arrivals and departures, but expected further cancellations and delays in the coming days.

This was as airlines had to move diverted aircraft and crew back to their normal positions and manage the impact of the poor weather over the weekend and in the days ahead, according to a statement posted on its website.

Other airports, such as Stansted, advised travellers to check with them first before going to the airport as “some flights may still be subject to delay or cancellation”.

In France, about 40% of the flights at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport were cancelled yesterday.

Agence France Presse reported that French authorities had cancelled three out of 10 flights today.

Frustrated SMS’s and tweets from travellers opting to swop South Africa’s wet Christmas for a white Christmas read along the lines of: “Flight got cancelled by snow storm”.

Many airlines inform customers by SMS of delays, but according to reports, some stranded travellers had bedded down in airport waiting halls.

Comment was not immediately available from the Airports Company of SA.

The Star reported that the greatest frustration was a lack of communication to travellers already at the airport.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Daily Mail grumpily headlined their article on the subject: “Not our finest hour! Planes grounded, thousands of festive holidays ruined, roads ungritted, drivers stranded for hours...and all because it snowed”.

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