Passengers sleep on makeshift beds in Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in west London
Passengers sleep on makeshift beds in Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in west London Reuters

The European Union (EU) has criticized European airports for having failed to respond with frigid weather conditions that have stranded thousands of holiday travelers and cancelled hundreds of flights.

Siim Kallas, the European transport commissioner implored airports around the continent to get serious about preparing for adverse weather conditions and described them as a weak link in the infrastructure.

In recent days, I have become increasingly concerned about the problems relating to the infrastructure available to airlines - airports and ground handling - during this severe period of snow, he said. It seems at this stage that this is a 'weak link' in a chain which, under pressure, is contributing to severe disruption.

Kallas said he wants to meet with airport officials and take a “hard look” at how they can operate more efficiently and effectively.

However, in response to Kallas’ remarks, the Airports Council International (ACI), a professional association of European airport operators, said 88 percent of flights to and from European airports had been operating.

We have seen in recent years that snow is Western Europe is not such an exceptional circumstance,” Kallas stated.

“Better preparedness, in line with what is done in Northern Europe is not an optional extra; it must be planned for and with the necessary investment, particularly on the side of the airports.

The ACI further stated that airports in northern Europe were better prepared to handle the weather because temperature there remained below freezing, whereas airports in Western Europe had to contend to volatile temperatures that changed the condition of runways.

Meanwhile the delays have negatively impacted travel plans for millions of people far beyond Europe.
Financially, the airlines are taking a hit. Analysts estimate that the severe weather and huge delays at London’s Heathrow Airport are costing British Airways about 75-million euros every day.

KLM-Air France noted that disruptions to its flights over the weekend cost it about 15 to 20-million euros.