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Airline passengers stranded in New York amid London airport closures

posted 20 Dec 2010, 12:45 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 20 Dec 2010, 12:47 ]

Tourists stranded in New York, amid London airport closures, hope to make it home in time for Christmas.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 20, 2010)  REUTERS - UK tourists stranded in New York were facing the prospect of Christmas away from home, as snow and freezing temperatures grounded flights across northern Europe on Monday (December 20).

Only one of two runways at London's Heathrow airport -- the world's busiest international airport -- was

operating after a weekend snowstorm, forcing thousands to camp out in terminals.

At the British Airways Terminal at New York's JFK Airport, frustrated passengers said they were running out of patience - and not to mention, cash.

Karina and Jennifer Flack from Cambridge, England, said they couldn't afford to stay in a hotel while their flights were delayed, and came to the airport to see if they could catch an earlier flight.

"We were supposed to get home on Sunday night, but our flight got cancelled. We've managed to get a flight for Wednesday but we can't afford to stay in a hotel, so we've come to hopefully get some answers. Because we can't get through on the phones, or even on the Internet now," Karina said.

The siblings said they hoped the weather conditions would ease soon.

"We're hoping it's going to stop and we can get home for Christmas," Karina said.

Elsewhere, more than 1,000 flights at German airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin were cancelled, disrupting business and Christmas holiday plans.

Freezing temperatures were expected to continue in Britain and Scandinavia for much of this week. Most of the rest of Europe is forecast to warm up in coming days, although a drop back to sub-zero levels is likely next week.

Cellan Jones, from Wales, said he heard about the delays on the news and thought he'd try his luck at catching an early flight back home.

"We were supposed to have a flight at 8 'o'clock tonight but we heard that everything's closed, so hopefully now we're going to try and get a reservation for the next flight, reserved seats," he said.

Scott Kirker, from Philadelphia, had hoped to travel to Singapore via London to see his parents for Christmas. His flight to London was cancelled until the weather improves, delaying his holiday plans.

"We keep being told that London never has snow, it's never a problem! It's a major inconvenience for a lot of people but it could be a lot worse," Kirker said.

British Airways, which is losing up to 10 million pounds ($15.5 million U.S. dollars) a day according to analysts, said arctic conditions would continue to cause major disruption to its operations and that more travel chaos was possible.

The vast majority of BA's profit comes from its operations out of London's Heathrow airport.

BA said Heathrow airport would only be using one of its two runways on Tuesday (December 21) -- as on Monday -- meaning the airport would be operating at a significantly reduced capacity.

It cancelled all short-haul flights after midday on Monday and some long-haul services.