20 Dec 2010

British airports reopen but delays still likely

10:03 pm on 20 December 2010

London's major airports have reopened after heavy snow forced them to shut down, but travellers to and from Britain are being warned to expect long delays as a backlog of flights is cleared.

At 7pm Monday (NZ time), Heathrow airport will begin operating a limited service; Gatwick and Stansted have already reopened.

Air New Zealand services to London on Monday evening were going ahead, as was a flight from Heathrow on Monday morning (British time).

Qantas says it's operating its scheduled service, and expects planes that were stranded in Asia to fly on to London this evening.

Cathay Pacific says a flight left Auckland on Monday afternoon bound for London, with about 70 people on board.

People wanting to fly to Britain are still being advised that travel is at their own risk, with airlines unable to guarantee their flights will get to London.

A Heathrow spokesperson says most of the planes parked there were snowed under and have to be dug out before they can take off.

Airlines say they will meet the costs incurred by passengers unexpectedly stranded in transit, but those who choose to fly to London now will have to meet their own accommodation costs if they become stranded.

Auckland departure area full

The international departures area at Auckland airport has been filled with people waiting to catch connecting flights to get to London.

Many say they are ignoring warnings that their flights out of Hong Kong and Brunei to Heathrow might not leave, preferring to try their luck.

One family heading back to England for the first time in five years say they would rather sleep on the floor in Brunei for a few nights than not make it home for Christmas.

Not just those bound for London are affected.

A couple waiting for a British Airways flight to Singapore for their wedding in Thailand say their plane can't get here from London and they have to rebook expensive last-minute tickets on another airline.