Christmas travel chaos eases in Europe, Heathrow still facing substantial delays

Europe's Christmas travel crisis eased slightly Wednesday but there were still substantial airport and train delays, particularly at London's Heathrow Airport, where crews were still struggling to remove ice.

About 70 percent of Heathrow's planned departures were expected to operate Wednesday–some 900 flights. Extra crews were working to remove ice buildup and clear the airfield of snow.

Crowds at Heathrow were smaller Wednesday with few people standing on line outside the terminals or sleeping on the floors. Airport officials placed two tents outside Terminal 3 to handle overflow passengers, but only one was used. Computer screens there showed 11 out of about 50 incoming flights had been cancelled.

Germany's Frankfurt airport said schedules were slowly returning to normal after several days of widespread delays caused by winter weather. About 70 flights were canceled Wednesday out of a daily total of about 1300, a substantial improvement over the 550 cancelations on Tuesday.

The French government said 15 percent of the flights from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris would be canceled Wednesday because of the winter weather.

Eurostar, which offers train services between England, France and Belgium, said routes were operating a near-normal schedule. Still it urged only customers with tickets to show up at terminals, after facing raucous crowds of thousands at ticket halls earlier this week.

Extreme cold temperatures continued to plague parts of Europe.

Denmark experienced its coldest night in 29 years with -22.5C measured in Holbaek, 40km west of Copenhagen. Still, Copenhagen's international airport expected a normal day.

Snow stopped falling in Ireland at around midnight and Dublin Airport pressed hard to catch up after losing most of Tuesday when 90,000 tons of snow had to be cleared from the runways. Aer Lingus leased 10 additional planes to operate extra flights to Europe and the United States and clear the backlog of delayed customers today. Ryanair said its flights were at full operations.

The snow also affected Ireland's most famous rock band. U2 stars Bono and the Edge had their return from a gig in Australia disrupted and ended up having to take a four-hour train journey to Dublin after landing in Cork. Fellow passengers largely left them alone, thinking they were members of a U2 "tribute" band.

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