Paris airport traffic latest to be snarled by Europe snow

Strikes at a French deicing fluid factory led to a shortage that grounded planes at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport as the rest of Europe's transportation system slowly dug out of snow drifts.

Julien Muguet/Reuters
Passengers look at a flight departure information board in a terminal at Paris's Charles- de- Gaulle airport on Friday, as 40 percent of flights have been canceled due to snow, freezing temperatures, and lack of deicing fluid. Across Europe, snow has caused delays and frustration in the days leading up to Christmas.

Paris' main airport got an early Christmas gift flown in from the United States Friday – a supply of deicing fluid to get planes off the snowy ground.

A strike at the main French factory producing glycol led to shortages that forced authorities to halve the number of takeoffs from Charles de Gaulle airport throughout the morning. As freezing temperatures continued into the afternoon, the cutback continued, but at a reduced rate of 35 percent.

Meanwhile, adding to the holiday drama, passengers at the airport were asked to leave a section of a major terminal for security reasons because of large amounts of snow on the roof, Bernard Cathelain, deputy director of the Paris airport authority ADP, told The Associated Press.

He denied French media reports that the terminal, 2E, was evacuated, and said the terminal was still operating. "We've asked passengers to move" to another part of the terminal, he said. A roof at terminal 2E collapsed in 2004, not long after it was opened, killing four travelers and sending tons of glass, steel and concrete showering down.

The airport authority said a shipment of deicing fluid was flown in from the United States Friday morning – though by plane, not reindeer.

While travel in Britain was improving after days of headaches, new snowfall caused travel problems around France and also shut Duesseldorf airport in Germany for hours.

Surprise snow threw Ireland's main Dublin airport into chaos with some 40,000 travelers stranded or delayed. With people giving up on air travel a day before Christmas, Irish Ferries added extra sailings between Britain and Ireland.

French civil aviation authorities said some 400 flights at Charles de Gaulle were canceled in the first wave of reductions Friday.

That was bad timing for travelers hoping to be at the table Christmas Eve, when the festive Christmas meal is served in France and some other countries.

Getting people home is "our goal for tonight," Air France ground official Michel Emeyriat said on the iTele TV channel. "We will do everything so that our planes can take off with everyone," he said. He conceded that long-haul flights get priority treatment.

Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said that with three cold waves that hit European airports, glycol "very clearly became a very precious product." Speaking on France-Inter radio, he said the strike at the French factory "had nothing to do with the cold" and production is to resume Monday.

The fluid shipment came just as backlogs of passengers waiting for a flight at Paris' two main airports eased somewhat after days of major weather-related congestion.

In Britain, major airports said services were operating largely as normal as the country thawed out from days of frosty weather. However, Christmas travelers were contending with reduced rail services and icy roads. About a quarter of services were canceled on some rail routes.

While the situation was on the mend at London's airports, Ireland risked plunging for a second day into travel chaos.

Related: Four reasons why London's Heathrow Airport faltered under snow

Aer Lingus and Ryanair said they were both attempting a full schedule Friday. But they voiced fears that snow may be lurking behind the blue skies, just like Thursday when an unexpected blizzard caught Dublin off guard.

Dublin Airport got 8 inches of snow, the biggest hit since the unseasonable snowfall Monday, and had to close three times during the day.

"It's terrible, it really is. The conditions were just so bad at the airport yesterday. It was a blizzard and it wasn't expected," said Siobhan Moore, spokeswoman for Dublin Airport. Thousands of stranded passengers are "tired and stressed and emotional, all entirely understandable at this time of year."

She said the airfield tarmac is equivalent to 600 acres, and each inch of snow equates to 15,000 tons. So that means emergency staff cleared an estimated 120,000 tons of snow overnight.

The unexpected Irish cold snap is also killing cows, sheep and pigs – and particularly young salmon at Ireland's fish farms that are used to stock lakes in springtime for anglers.

In Germany, Duesseldorf airport closed for several hours Friday morning because of new snowfall, with some 65 flights canceled. The railway line between Hannover and Berlin was closed overnight because of ice-covered overhead electric wires, but services resumed early Friday.

In Denmark, the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm remains the worst hit by the snow. Police have urged people to stay indoors, meaning many won't be able to reach families for the traditional Christmas Eve celebrations.

Some 400 passengers on two ferries to the island that sits south of Sweden's southernmost tip, spent the night on the ferries. The ships were due to dock Thursday afternoon but a blizzard forced them to stay just out of the harbor. On Friday, the passengers were able to reach the port city of Roenne, where they were lodged in military barracks and a sports facility.

Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, David Stringer in London, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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