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Flight Cancellations in Western Europe: How Airports Operate With Winter Weather

Flight Cancellations in Western Europe: How Airports Operate With Winter Weather


December is a time for family and friends, but not everything is fun about this time. This can be seen in Europe, where most airports had to cancel their flights due to major snowfall. Snow can significantly disrupt Europe's aviation industry, with major airports canceling their flights and thousands of people stranded. 


A Lufthansa aircraft at Munich Airport (MUC) on December 2 | Photo: Associated Press


Icy Grip


Winter has firmly claimed its icy grip on Europe's major hubs from Amsterdam to Munich to Frankfurt to Zurich. 




Schiphol Airport (AMS), the main gate to the Netherlands, has seen substantial cancelations, with its main operator, KLM, having canceled 65 European flights. Meanwhile, Germany's Munich Airport (MUC) reported a massive cancellation of more than 700 flights. 


Snow at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) | Photo: Schiphol Airport


The scenes are similar across the continent. Piles of snow lining runways, taxiways, and aprons make it difficult for aircraft to operate safely. If we look at Switzerland Zurich Airport (ZRH), over 40 flights have been canceled, with 22 departures and 21 arrivals being scrapped. Additionally, de-icing has flights delayed by 20 to 40 minutes. 


How Winter Weather Cripples Airports


Winter weather throws a multitude of challenges at airport operations. Here are some of the key factors:




  • Reduced visibility: Snow and blowing snow can significantly reduce visibility, making it hazardous for pilots to take off and land.
  • Icing: Ice formation on wings, control surfaces, and engines can affect an aircraft's performance and stability. De-icing procedures are essential but time-consuming.
  • Ground handling: Snow and ice make moving luggage, loading cargo, and fuel aircraft difficult, leading to delays.
  • Infrastructure issues: freezing temperatures can cause water pipes to burst and other infrastructure problems.


A snowplow clearing the runway at Glasgow Airport (GLA) | Photo: The Independent


The Domino Effect of Cancellations


When flights are canceled, it has a ripple effect. Passengers are stranded, connecting flights are missed, and airlines are forced to reschedule or re-route aircraft. This can cause airport chaos, with long queues, frustrated passengers, and overwhelmed staff.


As airports across Europe dig themselves out of the snow, it will take time for normal operations to resume. Passengers are advised to check with their airlines for the latest updates on their flights.


A Lufthansa aircraft at Munich Airport (MUC) on December 2 | Photo: Getty Images


In the meantime, airlines are working to re-accommodate passengers and minimize disruptions. However, with more winter weather expected in the coming weeks, travelers will likely continue to face challenges in the skies over Europe.




Additional Travel Tips


As we try to travel in these conditions, we need to try and find ways to work around the snow and make the best of this situation. 


Here are some tips:


  1. Arrive early, give yourself extra time to get to the airport in case of snow or ice.
  2. Stay informed and monitor weather reports and airline updates closely
  3. Pack for delays and bring plenty of warm clothes, snacks, and entertainment in case you get stuck at the airport.


A Lufthansa aircraft covered in snow at Munich Airport (MUC) | Photo: Getty Images


With a little preparation and patience, you can navigate the challenges of winter travel and reach your destination safely.



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Franco Grobler
Passionate aviation enthusiast from South Africa dedicated to bringing you articles on the latest aviation news, I aim to inspire and inform. I am set on embarking pilot training in 2024 to soar to new heights in the aviation world.

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NEWS Europe Snow Winter Weather Cancellations AMS Netherlands Munich MUC Germany Amsterdam Zurich ZRH Switzerland Weather


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