Simon Calder: British Airways 'plane on fire' over Heathrow causes travel chaos on one of the busiest weekends of the year

More than a dozen flights were diverted – many of them to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, but some to more distant airports

Tens of thousands of passengers hoping to fly out of Heathrow today have seen their travel plans wrecked as a result of this morning’s emergency at Europe’s busiest airport.

Initially both runways were closed at Heathrow, at one of the peak times for arrivals and departures. The southern runway re-opened 20 minutes after the stricken Airbus A319 landed on the northern runway.

More than a dozen flights were diverted – many of them to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, but some to more distant airports. British Airways passengers who had been heading for Heathrow found themselves in Cardiff, Bournemouth and Manston in Kent. Returning the aircraft to Heathrow will prove a headache, because with just one runway operating the airport for a many hours today, the airport already has great pressure on capacity. All short-haul flights have been cancelled until 4pm.

An airport spokesman said in a statement: “The temporary closure is likely to result in a number of cancelled flights throughout the day”.

By 11am, two hours after the incident, BA had cancelled 77 outbound flights – and the corresponding inbound services due later today. All the initial cancellations were of domestic and European flights, but with crews and aircraft out of position it is possible that long-haul flights may be affected.

BA said: “There will be significant disruption to flights into and out of Heathrow and we recommend you check the status of your flight before leaving for the airport”.

Virgin Atlantic cancelled its flights from Heathrow to Manchester and back, and warned that transatlantic services would be delayed.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled will be re-booked on the next available flight – but that could be some time away. Bookings for this weekend, when half-term begins for many families, are extremely heavy.

The incident happened at the start of one of the busiest weekends of the year. British Airways was expecting to carry 128,000 passengers today, most of them to or from Heathrow, and close to half a million between now and Bank Holiday Monday.

The emergency will add extra impetus to the debate over airport capacity in south-east England – partly from residents who live beneath the flight paths concerned about their safety when a stricken aircraft needs to land, and partly from those who will say the massive disruption at Heathrow after the incident shows how urgently extra capacity is needed.

Comment: Nowhere else but London would a temporary runway closure lead to 200 flights being cancelled

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album