Heathrow Airport, one of the world's busiest international airports, has been criticized for hastily canceling around 500 flights over the weekend after only three inches of snowfall.

Only 753 flights operated out of the west London airport on Sunday, 58 percent of its usual capacity of 1,300 flights.

London is the latest European capital to be hit by a cold snap that's winding its way west. Rome was blanketed by a rare snowfall Saturday that covered famous landmarks like the Colosseum for the first time since 1985.

Ukraine appears the worst hit by the cold snap, with Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Belarus also suffering more severe winter conditions than usual. More than 1,500 people have been hospitalized in Ukraine with a total of 122 deaths, the state-run news agency Ukrinform reported Saturday.

The first big storm of the winter in the United Kingdom saw 30 percent of the normal flights at Heathrow scrapped before a single snowflake hit the ground in an attempt to prevent disruption spilling over into the week.

Heathrow resumed normal service Monday, but passengers were warned that there could be further cancellations following the weekend's disruption. As of Monday afternoon, a handful of flight cancellations were reported.

Flights were canceled to minimize disruption to passengers amid forecasts of six inches of snow and possible freezing fog.

But as the snow melted and runways, taxiways, and stands at Heathrow were cleared of snow on Sunday, just 50 percent of the 1,300 scheduled flights went ahead.

A Heathrow spokesman said the move was designed to minimize disruption as staff worked to clear a backlog of flights.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the airport bosses had taken the right approach, defending Heathrow's cancellation strategy.

They are clearly trying to manage the airport and I think the most important thing is making sure that we put safety first, she told the BBC Sunday Politics program.

Stansted, Gatwick Birmingham and Luton also suspended operations for a time on Saturday but resumed service Sunday.

BAA, the Spanish-owned operator of Heathrow, is facing criticism for the sheer number of cancellations at a time when continental airports that faced far worse conditions succeeded in operating near-full schedules.

The disruption was in stark contrast to areas in Germany and Scandinavia where, despite record low temperatures and snowy conditions, flights took off as normal.

A spokesman for Prime Minster David Cameron's office said BAA and Heathrow had to make some judgments on the basis of the best information at the time.

When asked why the UK appeared less prepared than other European nations that dealt with much more snow, the spokesman said: They obviously have to prepare in a different way because their climate is different to ours. We have to make judgments about how much money to invest in mitigation, given the kind of conditions we experience in this country.

Forecasters have warned that biting temperatures, snow showers, and overnight frosts could last through the end of February across sections of Europe, including the UK.