Stranded travelers woke up to Christmas at Paris's Charles-de-Gaulle airport, hoping to finally find a flight home for the holidays. After snow and ice caused travel chaos across Europe, air traffic is gradually returning to normal.
AFP - Hundreds of travellers woke up on Christmas morning Saturday stranded at Paris's main airport after snow and ice grounded flights and caused widespread travel chaos across western Europe.
Traffic got back to normal with departure screens showing nearly all flights from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport due to leave on time, but many people had spent the night there after 400 flights were scrapped on Friday.
Airport authorities laid on food, beds and Christmas toys for those stranded in the third bout of major disruption caused by winter weather in western Europe in the past month, with flights in Belgium and Germany also affected.
"The children have presents, we have things to eat and drink," said Beatrice Clavel, stranded with her husband Didier and their two children at Roissy, where a visiting Santa Claus and a Catholic Christmas mass were provided.
"Roast beef, potatoes, a slice of smoked salmon, cheese and Christmas chocolate... The children had their photo taken with Father Christmas, teddies, Toy Story figures," said Clavel, whose Friday flight to Tunis was delayed until Saturday.
"All that's missing is a good shower."
On Friday about 400 flights in and out of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle were scratched, with some 30,000 travellers' plans disrupted by the cancellations and delays, said the airport's director Patrice Hardel.
"Since Roissy came into being, we've never seen anything like this," Pierre Graff, the head of ADP, the group that runs the airport, told RTL radio, describing the extreme weather that hit the airport as "exceptional".
Some 2,000 people were forced to sleep at the airport overnight Thursday and the same number were evacuated Friday from its Terminal 2E because of a build-up of snow on the roof.
Junior transport minister Thierry Mariani visited exhausted travellers at the airport just before midnight on Christmas Eve.
He told AFP airports were struggling to deal with the third bout of ice this month, a problem compounded by a strike by workers at France's main anti-freeze factory. Conditions improved when supplies arrived from abroad.
"I'm so tired that I no longer have the strength to be angry," said Frenchwoman Zoe Stephanou, 45. "My flight to Milan has been cancelled twice. The first when there was no snow."
The cold hit air, rail and road transport across a swathe of Europe, stranding thousands of travellers overnight.
Deep drifts blocked many minor roads in the north and east of France, and snow also caused power cuts for around 10,000 French households, national grid authority ERDF said.
In Germany and Belgium, thick snow sowed chaos on trains, roads and runways, transport officials said.
Police said a 47-year-old woman was killed when a snow laden branch fell on her in a forest in northwestern Germany.
Hundreds of tourists on the Danish island of Bornholm were forced to spend the night in an army barracks or on the ferry after heavy snow overnight.
In Britain, where heavy snow last week caused mass chaos, meteorologists warned of further snow and ice in northeast England and eastern Scotland.
Many train services were disrupted although Heathrow airport was largely back to normal.
In Ireland, Dublin airport reopened Friday after being closed for much of Thursday, stranding about 40,000 passengers.