PARIS (AP) — Travelers faced the prospect of spending Christmas Eve in Paris’ main airport instead of at a feast-laden family table, after new snowfall and shortages of deicing fluid revived travel troubles across Europe.
A scare about the security of a snow-laden terminal roof at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport made matters worse, with crowds asked to clear out of a section of Terminal 2E.
On the upside, the Paris airport got a holiday gift flown in from the United States on Friday — a supply of precious deicing fluid to get planes off the snowy ground. Authorities had halved the numbers of takeoffs from Charles de Gaulle throughout the morning.
Cancellations and delays continued in the afternoon, with flights reduced by 35 percent, and security officers brought in beds and blankets.
Adding to the holiday drama, passengers at the airport were asked to leave a section of a major terminal for security reasons because of large amounts of snow on the roof, Bernard Cathelain, deputy director of the Paris airport authority ADP, told The Associated Press.
He denied French media reports that the terminal, 2E, was evacuated, and said it was still operating. Passengers were asked to move to another part of the terminal, he said. A roof at terminal 2E collapsed in 2004, not long after the terminal was opened, killing four travelers and sending tons of glass, steel and concrete showering down.
France’s famed strikes played a role in Friday’s travel troubles, too. A walkout at a French factory involved in the production of deicing fluid exacerbated shortages, forcing France to import the fluid, France’s transport minister said.
While travel in Britain was improving after days of headaches, snowfall caused travel problems in Ireland and Denmark and shut Duesseldorf airport in Germany for hours.
That was bad timing for travelers hoping to be at the table Christmas Eve, when the festive Christmas meal is served in France and some other countries.
Getting people home is "our goal for tonight," Air France ground official Michel Emeyriat said on the iTele TV channel. "We will do everything so that our planes can take off with everyone," he said. He said long-haul flights get priority treatment.
Laurianne Bertrand, a 33-year-old French citizen living in Cairo, was trying Friday to reach family in Marseille but got stuck at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle.
"It really does matter for the grandparents. They are waiting for us in Marseille and they say it would be such a pity if we cannot make it," she told the AP.
"We as well, we want to be with them, but there are worse things in life. I want to stay optimistic," she said. "Frankly in that kind of situation you have to be, otherwise you can’t handle it."
Ramona Sansotta, a 23-year-old trying to get home to Genoa, spent Thursday night in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport — only to see her flight canceled again Friday.
"They brought us some blankets, but no one here could speak our language and we don’t speak French. So after we spent the whole night here they canceled again our flight. And now we hope to get back home before Christmas," she said.
The airport authority said a shipment of deicing fluid was flown in from the United States on Friday morning.
French civil aviation authorities said some 400 flights at Charles de Gaulle were canceled in the first wave Friday.
Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said that, because three cold waves have hit European airports recently, deicing fluid "very clearly became a very precious product."
Shortages of the fluid hit airports in Ireland and Belgium as well, leading to a domino effect of delays around the continent.
Surprise snow threw Ireland’s main Dublin airport into chaos with some 40,000 travelers stranded or delayed. With people giving up on air travel a day before Christmas, Irish Ferries added extra crossings between Britain and Ireland.
"We have no spare capacity. We’ve run out of aircraft, deicing fluid or crews at various locations," said Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.
Aer Lingus spokesman Declan Kearney said, "The conditions out on the ramp itself are difficult, and arriving aircraft are arriving in at a slower rate."
Siobhan Moore, spokeswoman for Dublin Airport, said thousands of stranded passengers are "tired and stressed and emotional, all entirely understandable at this time of year."
The unexpected Irish cold snap is also killing cows, sheep and pigs — and particularly young salmon at Ireland’s fish farms that are used to stock lakes in springtime for anglers.
In Britain, major airports said services were operating largely as normal as the country thawed out from days of frosty weather. However, Christmas travelers were contending with reduced rail services and icy roads. About a quarter of services were canceled on some rail routes.
In Germany, Duesseldorf airport closed for several hours Friday morning because of new snowfall, with some 65 flights canceled. The railway line between Hannover and Berlin was closed overnight because of ice-covered overhead electric wires, but services resumed early Friday.
The roof of a gym in Muenster, in western Germany, collapsed under the weight of the snow, though no one was inside.
In Denmark, the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm remains the worst hit by the snow. Police have urged people to stay indoors, meaning many won’t be able to reach families for the traditional Christmas Eve celebrations.
Some 400 passengers on two ferries to the island spent the night on the ferries. On Friday, the passengers were able to reach the port city of Roenne, where they were lodged in military barracks and a sports facility.