The New Year didn’t get off to a good start for many air passengers travelling through Europe and the Middle East as fog descended on both regions causing travel chaos lasting several days.
The weather caused particularly hard-hitting problems at Dubai International Airport and Heathrow Airport in London – both of which are operating at near full capacity.
In London, over 100 flights were cancelled and many more were delayed on 30th December as thick fog descended in the South East of England during the early hours and persisted the whole day.
Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers and accommodate other customers who had no hope of getting a flight out of the airport before a mandatory night-time curfew came into effect. It is understood that so many passengers were left stranded that some airlines, including British Airways, who are based at Heathrow ran out of hotel rooms.
Disappointed passengers were left to search for available rooms themselves or spend an uncomfortable night sleeping in the airport terminal.
One British Airways customer said:
“We’ve been waiting in this queue for at least 4 hours and just as we’ve started to get closer to the front they’ve told us that they had run out of hotel rooms. They have wiped their hands of us.”
Problems were compounded the next day as fog again descended in the early hours, leading to more cancellations and delays, mainly to short haul European destinations.
Other airports didn’t fare much better with Gatwick reporting 140 flights cancelled on Friday. At London City Airport 130 flights were cancelled and 26 flights diverted to other airports including Bristol in the South West of England.
Over in Dubai, the fog is a seasonal difficulty that is well expected. But anticipation of the problem did little to reduce its effects.
As Emirates predicted approximately 250,000 passengers to travel through Dubai International Airport over the New Year period they found themselves dealing with delayed, cancelled and diverted flights. The Dubai Airports company reported 26 cancelled flights, 23 diverted flights and 103 delayed flights on New Year’s Eve.
However, passenger misery was alleviated as the heavy fog was burnt away in the early afternoon by the desert sun. Airport officials in Dubai made good use of the facility’s ability to operate 24 hours a day to get passengers moving again.
Dubai has been battling the same problem for the last few days. On Thursday 29th December the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology & Seismology reported that visibility had dropped below 50 meters in some areas.
Further problems were reported in the wider region with passengers diverted from Saudi Arabia to other countries including Bahrain in order to get to catch connecting flights to their final destinations.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.