Passengers described scenes of “carnage” at Heathrow Airport as heavy snow that blanketed much of the UK in white caused flight cancellations and long delays.
The disruption at the UK’s busiest airport was blamed on planes having to be de-iced before take-off and after they land, with a backlog caused by aircraft stands being full.
It meant flights being diverted as far away as Newcastle – around 300 miles away – and aircraft held on the airport’s apron for hours before taking off.
The Twitter account of British Airways, believed to be the worst affected airline, received a deluge of messages from customers unhappy about long waits but also no response on their customer service phone line.
It has reportedly cancelled 24 long-haul flights as well as dozens of shorter flights.
Others posted pictures of huge queues waiting for flights.
Luton and Birmingham airports were also warnings of flight delays and cancellations but Heathrow appeared to suffering from the worst of it.
But as a hub airport, delays have a knock-on effect across Europe, with reports of one flight from Berlin to Heathrow being forced to turn back after an hour.
Both British Airways and Heathrow apologised for the “problems and inconvenience”.
A BA spokeswoman added: “We’re very sorry that some of our customers’ travel plans have been affected by severe weather conditions.
“Heavy rain overnight and snowfall this morning, combined with a reduction in the number of flights able to land at Heathrow have caused disruption to our flight schedule. Like other airlines, we are experiencing some delays and cancellations.
“We’re asking customers to check for information about their flights on ba.com before they set off for the airport, and not to come to the airport unless their flight is operating.
“We have put a flexible re-booking policy in place so that all customers due to fly from Heathrow today, Sunday December 10 and tomorrow, Monday December 11 can re-book to travel on alternative flights until Monday December 18.”
A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport said: “Heathrow airport remains open however we regret that weather across the UK is resulting in some passengers experiencing disruption to their travel arrangements.
“Airlines are responsible for ensuring their flights are fully de-iced before they are operated and this is resulting in some delays and cancellations.
“The safety and comfort of our passengers is always our first priority and we are working closely with our airlines to ensure affected passengers are looked after.
“Passengers should continue to check the status of their flight with their airline before coming to the airport. We apologise to those affected by today’s weather.”