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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 22:37 GMT
Travellers fear delays and frustration
By Marie Jackson
BBC News

Holidaymakers travelling out of Heathrow's Terminal 4 were bracing themselves for a night of delays and frustration on Thursday.

The crash-landing of a British Airways jet just short of the south runway has led to major delays, many cancellations and has forced travellers to make alternative arrangements.

Juliet Loftus and Stuart O'Brien
Juliet Loftus and Stuart O'Brien are trying to find another flight

Some passengers said that staff given the job of keeping them up-to-date had been short on information.

One tannoy announcement, however, said all short-haul European flights had been cancelled and passengers should leave the terminal as soon as possible.

This came as bad news for solicitors Stuart O'Brien and Juliet Loftus who were booked on to a BA flight to Geneva for three days of skiing.

"We've been told nothing at all. They're just dishing out letters telling us to try re-booking our flights on their website, which is not a lot of use," Mr O'Brien said.

"We have taken time off work, so we are going to try to find another airline to take us there."

Circling above

Friends Rike Kuesgen and Henrike Schlesinger found themselves in a similar position.

Travelling home to Germany after a seven-week holiday in Australia, they first knew something was wrong when their transit flight from Hong Kong circled above Heathrow for an hour.

Rike Kuesgen and Henrike Schlesinger
Henrike Schlesinger (left) and Rike Kuesgen will have to wait overnight

On landing they were told they could not fly to Frankfurt, so Miss Kuesgen's mother back home in Cologne scoured the internet to find the pair another flight.

"We have been told that there are no flights and we have to stay somewhere overnight, but no-one will say if we have to pay for it," Miss Kuesgen said.

"We have been travelling for 18 hours already and are a bit tired. It would have been nice to catch our flight, but they [the airlines] can't do anything about it."

Other passengers were similarly philosophical about the delays.

Motorway trek

Libby Lawrence and a team of 19 fundraisers were on their way to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

They were all set for the challenge but could never have guessed they would face one on the way to the airport.

Libby Lawrence (front left) and the VSO team
A "bit of a giggle" for Libby Lawrence (front left) and the VSO team

Several of the group found themselves trekking along the side of the M4 and several slip roads after police told their taxi driver he could travel no further.

"With the amount of luggage we have, it was bit tricky," said Ms Lawrence.

"One of the group was turned away altogether from the airport, and thought there had been a terrorist attack."

The delay to their flight to Dar es Salaam had not caused too much panic though.

"We have already had to change our route because of all the trouble in Kenya, so we're almost having a bit of a giggle about this," Ms Lawrence added.

Some passengers may be able to get away before dawn after Heathrow announced it had been given special permission to run night flights to help ease the backlog.

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