France fights to clear snowbound flights backlog
French officials battled to clear a backlog of delayed flights and look after travellers still stranded Tuesday, as the snowy weather that has caused days of disruption appeared to soften.
Paris's main airport Charles de Gaulle, where 3,000 people slept overnight Sunday in the terminals, was operating round the clock to clear delayed flights, junior minister for transport Thierry Mariani said.
Local authorities said a hundred civil security personnel had been sent on Monday evening with 300 beds and 2,500 blankets for those still stranded at Charles de Gaulle.
"The weather conditions have improved and all those involved are very mobilised, so the number of passengers able to take their flights has grown in the last few hours," said a local police official late Monday.
Mariani authorised the French capital's second-biggest airport Orly to stay open late into the night "to enable all as many passengers as possible to be transported and absorb some of the built-up delays."
On Monday authorities cancelled three in 10 flights from Charles de Gaulle and Orly.
The national weather service Meteo France ended its weather alert in several northern regions and much of Monday's snow had melted on Tuesday morning.
The snow had disrupted road and rail transport on Monday but the minister for the environment and transport Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the problems were not as bad as the snowbound chaos of two weeks ago.
"Things are going better on the roads," she said. "There are more difficulties with the air transport," with several major European hubs closed or severely disrupted.
Air France-KLM estimated the weekend snow and an earlier bout two weeks earlier will cost the airline 25-35 million euros (up to 46 million dollars), its chief operating officer Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said on Europe 1 radio.
© 2010 AFP