Passengers’ rights explained as snow closes Manchester airport

Flights diverted as far away as Paris

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 10 December 2022 13:25 GMT
Brighter days: Manchester airport is the UK’s third busiest after Heathrow and Gatwick
Brighter days: Manchester airport is the UK’s third busiest after Heathrow and Gatwick (Manchester Airports Group)

Tens of thousands of airline passengers have had their travel plans wrecked by the closure of Manchester airport on Saturday morning due to the wintry weather. Both runways at the airport – which is the third busiest in the UK – were closed for around three hours, and dozens of flights were diverted or cancelled.

Disruption is expected for the rest of the day, with many passengers uncertain about when they might reach their destinations.

What is the airport saying?

Shortly before 9am on Saturday morning the airport announced: “Due to heavy snow fall, we have temporary closed both runways. Health and safety will always be our top priority and operations will resume at the earliest opportunity.”

It happened as temperatures in the UK plunged, with more severe weather on the way. But some passengers and local people disputed the assertion that the snow was “heavy”; Paul Kleiman said: “I’m in Manchester, not far from the airport. It’s a light dusting at best.”

The airport reopened shortly before 12 noon, with one runway initially in operation.

What has happened to the planes that were flying to Manchester this morning?

The first arrival to be diverted was Tui’s inbound service from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. It landed at Birmingham, as did Ryanair from Brussels, Prague, Aer Lingus from Dublin, Turkish Airlines from Istanbul and Swiss from Zurich.

Singapore Airlines had two flights due to land at Manchester: one from Houston, which is now in Paris, and the other from Singapore – which is on the ground at Heathrow, alongside Virgin Atlantic from Orlando and Ethiopian Airlines from Geneva.

Leeds Bradford has received the Aer Lingus arrival from Belfast and Ryanair’s flight from Alicante.

The Ryanair arrival from Palma went to London Stansted. A number of planes landed at East Midlands airport.

What will happen to those passengers?

Unless the airport reopens and can take arrivals, and pilots decide to fly on to Manchester, they will be put on buses – except from Paris – and brought to Manchester. They are the lucky ones – all the passengers waiting to travel out on some of those planes will simply have to go home and wait.

Some planes simply turned around and went back to their starting point, including Lufthansa from Munich, SAS from Oslo and Loganair from the Isle of Man.

What happens to passengers who are hoping to get away?

Some flights are being delayed – Jet2 to Tenerife is currently expected to go out tonight about 12 hours late. Many others have simply been cancelled, including the return legs of the flights that were diverted.

The morning round of easyJet departures to Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva (two flights) and Palma were cancelled.

What are passengers whose flights are disrupted entitled to?

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, travellers whose flights are cancelled or delayed are entitled to be flown to their destination as soon as possible – and must be provided with meals, and if necessary accommodation, until they are able to travel.

But just two weeks before Christmas there are limited options for getting people where they need to be.

Cash compensation is not payable because the closure is classed as an “extraordinary circumstance”.

Shouldn't the airport have been prepared for snow?

it is often said that other airports in countries such as Canada, Switzerland and across Scandinavia are much better prepared than we are for snow.

Partly that is because the UK climate is generally much more benign, and therefore investment in equipment for severe weather is not so easily justified.

But even when airports are really well equipped, sudden snowfalls will still close the best-prepared airports as I know from personal experience getting stuck at airports in Russia and the US in midwinter.

And there’s more disruption on the way?

Yes, Manchester airport is one of six UK airports at which PCS union members working for UK Border Force will walk out for eight days, starting on 23 December. The airport says it expects delays and cancellations.

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