The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘This is the last thing Britain needs’

London, Aug. 12: Disappointed faces grimly stared up at the information screens as row after row of flights flashed up as cancelled.

Babies were crying, fathers spoke angrily into their mobile phones as they tried to get through to British Airways’ customer services, and the elderly sat slumped in chairs, resigning themselves to an indefinite wait.

These were the chaotic scenes at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 yesterday as British Airways announced that all domestic and European flights were grounded. Shortly after this came the news that long-haul flights had been cancelled, too.

Hundreds of passengers crammed floors inside the departure hall. Loudspeaker announcements asked anyone not flying to leave the building as staff closed the main doors to prevent overcrowding.

As hundreds more hopeful passengers arrived to find themselves shut out, airport staff distributed fold-up chairs and bottles of water.

Angela Kunicky, 29, a Canadian studying in London, was hoping to fly to Vancouver to attend a friend’s wedding at the weekend.

Visibly upset that she would not be seeing her family tomorrow as planned, she said: “I usually fly with Air Canada but for some reason this time I thought I would use something different.

“I can't believe this has happened. How am I going to make it back when I’m sure all other flights will be full' I have been really looking forward to this trip and even cutting it a day short is devastating.”

Malcolm Hannaford, 32, a radio engineer from the Forest of Dean, was angry. “We’ve been standing outside the terminal for four hours without being told what is going on. In all likelihood, British Airways would have known earlier in the day that they wouldn’t be able to operate flights. The lack of information is astounding.

“We are club members so I expect to be treated better than this. Now we know it is cancelled, it will be a relief to go home but I don’t know if we can take the trip now.”

He is expected at a business seminar in Sydney on Monday and was taking his partner Samantha and their five-month-old son for their first holiday to Australia.

A group of friends from a bowling club in Sydney were looking forward to going home. Justine White, 77, sat on a plastic chair at the back of a long line queuing for customer services.

She said: “This is such a shame. We have all had a wonderful holiday and with all that has gone on in London recently, this is the last thing Britain needs.”

Her party of 21 had been touring Britain for two weeks. “We are absolutely exhausted, especially as we put in a morning’s sightseeing before leaving for the airport. We were looking forward to a long sleep on the plane.

“Then we heard there would be no food, which is unpleasant. But now, we wouldn’t mind that at all. I don’t know what will happen, where we will stay tonight and how long we will be stuck in Britain.”

She did speak favourably of the nearby staff in fluorescent jackets who were busy trying to make the waiting crowds comfortable. “They have been wonderful, handing out chairs for us and bringing us bottled water. It’s a bit of a disaster but I’m sure in time we will look back on it as an adventure.”

A woman bound for Egypt looked exhausted as she leant over a trolley overloaded with bags on which her two children were sitting, their noses hidden behind the latest Harry Potter book. “Thank God they enjoy reading and have these books or they would be driving me mad.”

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