Skift Take

Winter weather and cold climates routinely hurt the on-time and cancellation records at airports in Europe and Northeast U.S., but they’re almost in the clear with spring weather a few weeks away.

Frankfurt airport suspended flights following heavy overnight snowfalls and Eurostar Group Ltd. ceased Channel Tunnel train services for the day as blizzards hit air, rail and road travel across swathes of northern Europe.

About 300 flights to and from Europe’s third-busiest airport were canceled before owner Fraport AG stopped operations. Eurostar halted passenger-express services through the Channel Tunnel until tomorrow, citing “severe weather conditions overnight in northern France and Belgium.”

French authorities preemptively grounded one-quarter of flights at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, the second-busiest in the region, and local trains were also hit, with SNCF asking people to avoid travel to Paris. Rail services were delayed to London’s Gatwick airport, close to which dozens of motorists slept in their cars after as much as six inches of snow fell.

“A high-pressure area north of Britain is pulling in the cold from Russia and that’s colliding with a large area of low pressure over northern France,” said Helen Chivers, a forecaster at the U.K. Met Office. “Where the two meet you’re getting a lot of snow because the air coming from the north is so cold.”

While Frankfurt’s runways were being continuously cleared, the snow didn’t allow for safe operations, Fraport spokesman Matthias Nossek said. Services were halted before noon and should resume at about 1:30 p.m., assuming conditions improve.

Trips abandoned

Hundreds of people were stuck at St Pancras station, Eurostar’s London terminus, from early this morning with many abandoning their trips to Paris or Brussels before Eurostar finally shuttered the service.

“Passengers will not be able to travel on Eurostar services today and should not come to our stations,” the company said, adding that ticket exchanges are refunds are available.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Europe’s second-biggest carrier, had scrapped 340 flights as of 12:45 p.m. local time, mostly from Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. Air France-KLM Group, the No. 1, said on its website that that 35 percent of short- and medium-haul operations would be cancelled at Charles de Gaulle. At least a fifth of flights were also scrapped at Paris’s Orly airport.

About 600 vehicles were stuck overnight on the A16 in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region north of Paris, with 100 still at a standstill today, Agence France-Presse said, while 70,000 homes in northwest France also lost power as a result of the snowfall.

Heathrow impact

Meteo France, the country’s weather service, placed 29 districts in the north on “orange” alert before moving two of them — La Manche and Calvados — to “red” status, forecasting average falls of between 5 and 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches). In Normandy, wind-blown drifts reached a depth of 1.5 meters.

The high winds that brought the snow also caused moderate to severe delays at London Heathrow, Europe’s top hub, according to Eurocontrol, which manages air traffic across the region.

Operations at London City, close to the U.K. capital’s financial district, were slowed by the wind and also affected by de-icing work, though Stansted to the north, the biggest base for Ryanair Holdings Plc, said its runway was clear.

Disruptions in the U.K. included short-notice cancellations because of train stock displacement on the Gatwick Express that connects London Victoria with the airport, National Rail said.

Shuttles running

The network in southern England also suffered signal failures as switches at rail junctions had to be cleared of snow after widespread heavy falls, according to the body, which represents Britain’s 20 or so train-operating companies.

Channel Tunnel owner Groupe Eurotunnel SA said its vehicle shuttles, which pick up and set down at either end of the subsea link, were still running, though trucks were stood in line at the U.K. end because of concern about road conditions in France.

Brussels airport said mid-morning that it was open, though experiencing some delays, diversions and cancellations for de- icing and snow-clearing operations.

The cold snap has sent temperatures across Europe plunging below seasonal norms, according to CustomWeather Inc. data on Bloomberg. Frankfurt will average minus 3 degrees Celsius, or 5 degrees below the 10-year average, while the same forecast for Paris is about 8 degrees below the usual mid-March reading.

In northern Germany, temperatures could fall as low as minus 10 degrees, forecaster Deutscher Wetterdienst said on its website. In the U.K., a low of minus 2 degrees is predicted for London, versus a 3-degree seasonal norm, CustomWeather said.

Strong winds are also forecast across western Europe, including gales in Britain, with warmer temperatures and light breezes anticipated from March 15, according to the Met Office.

With assistance from Rachel Morison in London, Vidya Root in Paris, Angela Cullen in Germany and Andrew Clapham in Brussels. Editors: Chris Jasper and Benedikt Kammel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in London at [email protected]. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected].


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Tags: eurostar, london, paris

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