From December 18, the UK’s airports have been affected by an extended − by UK standards − period of snow and ice that has crippled most of the country. Britain is perhaps infamous for being ‘paralyzed’ by the first sign of winter snow while many of its north European neighbours cope with far greater deposits, but this most recent run of freezing weather is thought to be the most prolonged it has experienced for two decades.
It is rare in the UK to have significant snow before January or February and any that does fall usually melts away with two or three days. However, at the time of writing − January 14 − large areas of the UK are still covered in snow.
Virtually every airport in the country has suffered cancellations due to the winter weather, as snow deposits up to 2ft (60cm) have been recorded in some areas. A few of the smaller airports have chosen not to purchase snow-clearing equipment because for them it makes more financial sense to suffer some limited disruption rather than spend vast sums on something they may only need to use on two or three days a year. However, the duration of the current ‘big freeze’ may lead them to reconsider this strategy.
Naturally, diverted flights were commonplace, but the recent global recession, which has resulted in the loss of so many industry jobs, has also played its part in causing disruption at some airports. As more ground handling team members than usual have been laid off during the winter, some agents felt unable to accept would-be diversions due to a lack of available staff.