Tens of thousands of passengers woke up Monday morning far from where they expected to be after hundreds of flights at London airports were canceled and diverted on Sunday.
Airline schedules were torn up on Monday, with The Independent identifying more than 320 flight cancellations to and from the capital’s airports.
On Sunday, passengers on dozens of flights to Stansted and Gatwick airports landed at airports as far apart as Amsterdam and Newcastle.
An easyJet flight from Pisa to Gatwick flew over the English Channel hoping to land at Sussex Airport, then diverted to Southampton, which was also closed, before diverting to Manchester.
Tony Anderson, a Cambridge businessman, was due to arrive from Valencia to Stansted at 6.30pm – but his Ryanair flight was diverted to Brussels, where he arrived at 2.20am. No hotel or meals were provided, and he does not know when he might complete his trip.
“Worrying sign – Ryanair flight 888 has now disappeared from the departure boards,” he said.
Around 80 flights to and from Stansted, mostly on the Irish airline, have so far been grounded.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Due to continued snowy weather across the UK, the Stansted runway temporarily closed flights to/from the airport last night and today. Affected passengers have been briefed and informed of their options.
“As the snowy weather continues across the UK, our teams are working hard to minimize disruption to customers and Ryanair is advising all customers traveling from the UK today to check the website/app Ryanair for flight status updates before heading to the airport.
“We sincerely apologize for these weather-related disruptions which are entirely beyond our control.”
Figures from flight data specialist Cirium show that one in six flights from Gatwick Airport were canceled over the weekend: a total of 91.
Overall, a total of 316 outbound flights were canceled across the UK this weekend, representing one out of nine departures of all scheduled departures.
Some planes simply turned around and returned to their starting points in Luxembourg, Edinburgh and Milan.
Passengers who landed at the wrong airports sometimes waited on the plane for the airport to reopen. Otherwise, they were put on buses to their intended destination airport – or put up in hotels.
With so many planes – and pilots – out of position since yesterday’s hijackings, as well as continued bad weather, at least 250 flights to and from London airports were canceled on Monday as the wintry weather sets in continues.
Airports are urging passengers who have booked a flight on Monday to check before going to the airport that their flight is still running.
British Airways alone grounded more than 70 short-haul flights to and from London Heathrow on Monday. Destinations with multiple cancellations include Belfast, Edinburgh, Milan, Zurich and Barcelona.
A further 50 BA flights have been canceled to and from London City Airport.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “Like all airlines operating to or from London, our schedule has been affected by continued adverse winter weather conditions.
“We have apologized to our customers and are doing everything possible to ensure that as many people as possible can travel. We refund or rebook anyone whose flight has been canceled and provide refreshment vouchers and hotel accommodation if needed.
BA is using larger planes, where possible, to transport passengers on disrupted flights.
Aer Lingus and Iberia of Spain have also canceled flights to and from Heathrow.
At Gatwick, easyJet has so far canceled around 60 flights to and from Sussex Airport, including services to Rome, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Wizz Air and British Airways have also grounded a dozen flights each at Gatwick, mostly to Mediterranean destinations.
gatwick tweeted“The airport is open and flights are operating, but freezing weather will cause delays and cancellations for the rest of the day.”
Flights arrive and depart from Luton Airport, but easyJet blocked 16 flights on Monday while Wizz Air canceled 26 – including flights to and from Tel Aviv, Sarajevo and Malaga.
At airports elsewhere in the UK, the main issue was multiple cancellations to and from London airports. But Belfast City also had flights to and from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds Bradford and East Midlands grounded.
All passengers awaiting departure are covered by European rules on air passenger rights.
Travelers whose flights are canceled or delayed have the right to be transported to their destination as soon as possible – and should be provided with meals and, if necessary, accommodation until they are able to travel. But just two weeks before Christmas, options for getting people to where they need to be are limited.
No cash compensation is due as the closure is classified as an “extraordinary circumstance”.
Many trains in the south east of England are halted on Monday, with the south east urging passengers not to attempt to travel between Kent and London.
Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express trains are also heavily disrupted.
The weather disruption will cause serious problems for people hoping to catch trains ahead of the next round of nationwide rail strikes, which begin on Tuesday – with cancellations due to walkouts beginning in the early evening.