Heathrow anger over cancelled flights

By Beth Hale, Daily Mail

Last updated at 08:29 05 August 2004

Angry passengers began a sit-in at Heathrow Airport after more than 100 flights were cancelled because of the storms.

They refused to leave Terminal One when BA staff told them they couldn't find them anywhere to stay for the night.

Many were told to telephone a customer service line which then shut down, while the remaining staff told them they were unable to arrange hotels. Airport police were called in to calm the situation.

Yesterday the tired passengers were still waiting to see if their flights had been rescheduled. At Terminal One - which handles the short-haul flights which were the most heavily affected by Tuesday's deluge - more passengers arrived to find queues snaking around the building.

Hundreds awoke from a troubled night attempting to snatch some sleep on the terminal floor, chairs and even conveyor belts.

Yesterday evening British Airways said there had been 109 short haul flights cancelled and one long haul flight. Among those who slept on the floor of Terminal One on Tuesday night was Barbara Whitelaw, 65, and her husband John, 71.

The couple, from Galashiels, in the Borders, were due to fly to South Africa with South African Airlines after taking a flight from Scotland. But this arrived late and yesterday they were waiting to see if their journey onwards had been rescheduled.

Mrs Whitelaw said: 'We were told to find a hotel but there were so many people it didn't seem worth it. We just found a little piece of vinyl on the floor and lay down with everyone else. I slept on the floor when I was with the Girl Guides in my 20s but never dreamed I would be doing it again.'

IT consultant Gary Delooze, 33, who flies between London and Manchester once a week, said: 'The staff ignored us, then called the police, it was really bizarre. There was no consideration.'

An airport spokesman said: 'Heathrow is the world's busiest airport and when there is a sudden burst of severe weather it does have an effect.'

BA said staff had made every effort to keep customers informed.

Tuesday's mini-monsoon struck much of the country with thunderstorms and torrential rain. Traffic ground to a standstill and roads turned into rivers.

Joseph Wharton, 14, died after being hit by lightning in Bloxwich, West Midlands, and a girl of 15 remained in a critical condition after being struck in Hyde Park, Central London.

Seven cockle pickers were rescued off Meols in the Wirral after they lost their bearings.

The Met Office has warned of further storms and muggy temperatures before fresher weather arrives.

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