Finally, at Heathrow, they have lift-off

After three days of frustration, the airborne getaway begins
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The Independent Online

After days of delays, cancellations and chaos at Britain's airports, passengers travelling to see friends and family dared to hope for a Merry Christmas as the fog lifted and the backlog of delayed flights started to clear.

At Heathrow last night, confusion and anger were giving way to optimism, as normal service gradually resumed. Outside Terminal One, Father Christmas and his team of helpers distributed sandwiches to people waiting in emergency tents before check-in.

Tom Maxfield, 29, a student from Cornwall, had been trying to catch a flight to Munich since Wednesday. "My original flight was cancelled, and I was put on a flight the next day, but it was cancelled too. Then I tried to book a flight from Standsted, but when I got to the airport, that one was cancelled as well. Luckily I have friends in London who I've been staying with."

He remained philosophical at the delays, however. "What more could BA do? The weather messed things up. I've been impressed by the organisation here, the free food and the atmosphere of calm," he said.

Other travellers were less happy. Charles Rodriguez, 39, a lawyer from Los Angeles travelling to Spain with his wife Dionne, 34, had spent two nights at the airport. "When we got here on Thursday, we had to wait in line for eight hours before we were told our flight was cancelled. This has been the worst travel experience I've had in my life."

Allie Taylor, 43, a teacher, and John Farrell, 45, a taxi driver from Haslemere, had already missed one day of a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, but were still hoping to catch up with their ship in Barcelona. "We're pretty annoyed because by the time we catch up we will already have missed so much," said Ms Taylor.

Roy Hipkin, 73, and Joan Richards, 71, retired friends from Esher, were also belatedly heading for Barcelona. "We're not going to let this ruin our Christmas," said Mrs Richards.

Anna Thomander, 23, who works in the City, was still hoping to reach Stockholm. "My father found a flight this afternoon, so I think I may still make it."

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