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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 14:52 GMT
Anger and frustration at Heathrow
By Lucy Rodgers
BBC News, Heathrow Airport

Passengers at Heathrow
Passengers face a long wait

As severe weather leaves passengers stranded at Heathrow Airport, some vent their anger at the delays and a lack of information.

A blanket of fog continued to cover Heathrow Airport on Thursday, causing passengers to face a second day of delays and disruption.

Following a day when 350 flights were cancelled, about 500 passengers were forced to sleep in the airport's terminals.

With a similar number of cancellations on Thursday, many travellers were facing up to the fact that they may not reach their destinations in time for Christmas, while others were desperately hunting down alternative transport.

In Terminal One, from where most of Heathrow's domestic flights depart, hundreds of passengers were frantically making alternative arrangements and others sat around reading, talking or sleeping as they waited for any news of their flights.

We were going to see our family and grandchildren but we've been told we may not get there for three days
Carol Soderlind

Queues could be seen snaking around the check-in hall, where airport staff in their fluorescent jackets attempted to steer people in the right direction.

Anxious passengers could also be seen phoning relatives on the terminal's many payphones, and others vented their anger at airport staff.

Some just wandered aimlessly attempting to find anyone in authority with the latest information.

Those with the longest delays and those with cancelled flights were guided to white marquees erected outside the terminal, where they were provided with refreshments and a warm place to sit.

BAA hoped the two heated temporary holding areas would ease the pressure on the terminal building.

A spokesman said: "The terminals are getting clogged up and the flights that can leave are being delayed more - the idea is to get passengers into the marquees and then call them through when their flight is called."

He warned any passengers thinking of coming to Heathrow to take flights over the Christmas period to contact their airlines first.

BA marquee
Passengers took refuge in the Terminal One marquees

In the damp marquees, travellers took advantage of the blankets on offer, wrapping them around their shoulders to keep warm in the continuing foggy weather, and queued for warm drinks and food.

Airline staff took names and flight numbers from passengers as they entered in an attempt to clear the backlog.

Inside, some used the white plastic chairs as make-shift beds, and others just waited in silence for news of their flights.

Among those waiting outside to take advantage of the heated marquees were Carol and Staffan Soderlind, from Woking, who were travelling to Stockholm.

They had already accepted that they may not reach their destination in time for Christmas.

Mrs Soderlind said: "We were going to see our family and grandchildren but we've been told we may not get there for three days.

"We knew there were problems but not to this extent."

Napil Berry, 37, from Nottingham, was also waiting for news of his flight.

Joan Green
Joan Green, from Canada, was being picked up by her sister

He had spent a night in a hotel after his evening British Airways flight was delayed on Wednesday, and has now missed his sister's wedding in Stockholm.

Sitting on a blanket outside the terminal concourse, he said: "I told my sister I'm not going to make it. She said: 'Try to come in time for Christmas.'

"I'm not angry with BA about it but I am angry and upset I missed my sister's wedding."

One passenger for Northern Ireland, who did not want to be named, was more unforgiving. He said he felt like travellers were being "treated worse than dogs".

"One person tells you one thing, and another person tells you another," he said. "I know it is exceptional circumstances, but you would have thought they would have some sort of contingency plan."

'No warnings'

Another angry passenger was Joan Green, who travelled from Toronto in Canada to be with family in Leeds.

She found out her flight was cancelled when she arrived at Heathrow and was forced to call her sister in Yorkshire to pick her up.

Mrs Green said: "I come three times a year and this is the first time I've ever had a problem.

"There were no warnings about it before. We were just told it was cloudy. I've had no information, just that it's cancelled.

"It's a lucky my sister has a day off and can come and get me."

Another passenger, who was so angry she also did not want to be named, was facing a six-hour bus journey to Newcastle after arriving from Perth, Australia.

She said: "You come all that way and have all these problems in your own backyard."

Others who had been left stranded due to cancelled flights, were choosing to hire vehicles, with staff at the Heathrow car hire desk reporting an increase in trade from desperate passengers, especially families.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Passengers explain how they have been affected



SEE ALSO
Fog causes flight cancellations
21 Dec 06 |  Scotland

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