Photos: Snow hinders holiday travel across Europe

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  1. A man shovels snow in Scheibenberg, Germany on Saturday, Dec. 25. Heavy snow is hampering holiday travel in many parts of Europe. (Jan Woitas / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Cars travel on snow-covered highways near Jacobsdorf, Germany, on Saturday. (Patrick Pleul / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Two boys play as they wait at Zaventem International Airport in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday. (Thierry Roge / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Plows clear snow from the second runway at Manchester Airport in northern England on Wednesday. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A passenger lies on the floor, surrounded by luggage and other waiting passengers, at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3, west of London, on Tuesday, Dec. 21. Fresh snowfall added to the misery of thousands of Christmas travellers across Europe Tuesday, paralysing flights and trains as the EU lashed out at airports for "unacceptable" disruption. (Adrian Dennis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. People grab refreshments from palettes of plastic water bottles and boxes of chocolate bars inside the departure terminal at Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The supplies were provided to aid the stranded travelers. Another snowfall in the morning caused further delays and cancellations at the airport. (Arne Dedert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Passengers rest on the floor next to a sandwich bar as they wait for flights from Terminal 3 at Heathrow airport in London on Tuesday, Dec. 21. Heathrow airport is operating only one runway for a third day as snow continues to cause travel delays. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A Brussels Airlines aircraft is de-iced on the snow-covered tarmac of Zaventem international airport near Brussels on Monday, Dec. 20. Brussels airport said on its Twitter feed that it could not guarantee de-icing of planes due to a shortage of de-icer caused by transport problems in France. (Francois Lenoir / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The Bishop of Lincoln, Dr. John Saxbee, blesses the crews and vehicles of of Lincolnshire's gritters as they prepare to go out on duty on Monday in Lincoln, England. The bishop and other clergy across the county have blessed the gritters in the past and hope that it will reduce winter accidents on the roads. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Passengers line up at London St Pancras International Rail Station for Eurostar services to the continent on Monday in London, England. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A man walks a dog in the snow in central London on Saturday, Dec., 18. Plunging temperatures and heavy snow brought large swaths of Britain to a standstill. (Alastair Grant / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A policeman works at an accident on highway A3 near Montabaur, in Western Germany on Saturday, Dec. 18. (Sascha Ditscher / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Passengers push baggage over snow-covered walkways at the airport of Hanover, Germany, on Monday, Dec. 20. (Holger Hollemann / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Airline passengers wait in line beside rows of luggage in London Heathrow airport on Monday, Dec. 20. British airports operator BAA apologized for ongoing chaos at London Heathrow as freezing weather threatened to ruin holiday travel plans for thousands. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Airline passengers lie on the floor at Heathrow Airport in London on Monday, Dec. 20. Winter weather delayed flights across Europe on Monday, frustrating travelers trying to get away for Christmas and putting pressure on airlines. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. An EgyptAir plane lands as snowplows clear runways at Frankfurt's airport on Monday, Dec. 20. A winter storm caused further travel disruptions across northern Europe on Monday, stranding travelers, snarling traffic and closing schools. More than 1,000 flights at Germany's main airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin were canceled and many more delayed. (Alex Domanski / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Airline travelers wait in line at Frankfurt's airport on Monday, Dec. 20. (Alex Domanski / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Shoppers cover their heads as they walk along Oxford Street in London on Saturday, Dec. 18. Fresh snow brought much of Britain to a standstill on what is traditionally a busy weekend for shopping and travel ahead of Christmas. (John Voos / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Passengers rest on a baggage carousel at Orly Airport, south of Paris, on Monday, Dec. 20. Snow and freezing temperatures continued to cause holiday travel chaos for road, rail and air passengers in much of Europe Monday, raising fears that many will not get home in time for Christmas. (Jacques Brinon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Snowplows clear snow and ice from runways at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland on Sunday, Dec. 19. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A passenger stands surrounded by luggage near the Eurostar terminal inside St. Pancras International train station in London on Monday, Dec. 20. (Carl de Souza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rail passengers wait for Eurostar trains outside St. Pancras Station in London, Monday, Dec. 20. Frustrated travelers expressed fury Monday at transportation officials' inability to clear snow and ice from planes, runways and high-speed train tracks -- failings that have caused holiday travel chaos and fears that many will not get home in time for Christmas. (Akira Suemori / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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msnbc.com news services
updated 12/25/2010 11:17:44 AM ET 2010-12-25T16:17:44

Hundreds of travelers trapped by icy weather spent Christmas Day lining up for flights in Europe on Saturday after sleeping on cots and floors in Paris and Brussels airports.

Flight schedules were returning to normal in Paris, thanks to fresh deliveries of de-icing fluid from Germany and the United States to get planes off the ground, but many people were still set to miss Christmas dinners at their destinations.

Airports were mostly back to normal in Britain, Belgium and Germany, although there were cancellations in Frankfurt and Zurich. Several hundred people slept in Paris and Brussels airports on Friday night.

Freezing weather and heavy snow have disrupted travel for several days, upsetting year-end travel for hundreds of thousands of people and raising questions about the air industry's lack of preparation for icy weather.

Flight delays and cancellations have been compounded by disruption to high-speed trains and clogged road travel from England to Sweden in one of Europe's snowiest Decembers.

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Camped out at Paris airport
At Paris's Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, staff handed out instant coffee and pastries for breakfast on Saturday and Transport Minister Thierry Mariani told passengers he would look into what caused an acute shortage of de-icing fluid.

At least 300 people slept on military-style beds at Roissy on Friday after some 400 flights were cancelled.

Laurianne Bertrand, a 33-year-old French citizen living in Cairo, was trying to reach family in Marseille but got stuck at Charles de Gaulle on Friday.

"It really does matter for the grandparents. They are waiting for us in Marseille," she said Friday. "We want to be with them, but there are worse things in life. I want to stay optimistic. 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, Italy, spent Thursday night at Charles de Gaulle — 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 our flight again. And now we hope to get back home before Christmas," she said Friday. It was unclear whether she had made it in time.

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Many slept at nearby hotels, where authorities had reserved 3,300 rooms. While some people cried into cell phones, others prayed at an airport mass to be able to get on their flights.

A few brought champagne to drink from plastic cups and ate improvised Christmas Eve suppers of smoked salmon, salad, fish pate and cheese cubes, surrounded by suitcases, as a Santa Claus handed out sweets, toys and dolls to children.

"The weather is unpredictable," said Mariani, who arrived at Charles de Gaulle shortly after midnight on Friday. "You can go to all the effort you like but at the end of the day it's the weather."

The French government has come under fire for a failure to cope with a sudden snowfall this month that left thousands of motorists stuck in cars overnight around Paris, and for a shortage of de-icing fluid at airports that forced 2,000 people to sleep in airport terminals on Thursday night.

Paris airports authority chief Pierre Graff said it had been hard to ramp up local supplies of de-icer because only 5 percent of production at factories of the chemical goes to airports.

"Of course I feel responsible," he told LCI television.

Bummed in Brussels
In Belgium, about 500 stranded passengers spent Christmas Eve at Brussels' airport after 10 inches of snow fell early Friday, the heaviest snowstorm in the Belgian capital since 1964.

"I've never had such Christmas before," said Ron Van Kooe, who slept in the terminal. "It's one not to forget, actually. But also a lesson for the future to never book a flight on this date."

A Brussels airport spokesman said the situation had normalized by Saturday afternoon and that remaining stranded passengers were on their way out.

Germans see foot of new snow
In Germany, 12 inches of snow fell overnight, causing train delays between Hannover and Berlin. Trains to the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, a tourist destination, were axed.

Light road traffic on Christmas Day meant fewer problems were reported, however, and airports were operating normally.

On Friday, Duesseldorf airport was closed for several hours and many trains saw delays.

Britain issues 'all clear'
In Britain, snow delayed tens of thousands of passengers this week.

Despite bitter overnight temperatures as low as minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit)in parts of Scotland and England, there was little new snow on Saturday.

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A spokeswoman for London's Heathrow Airport said only a handful of flights would be cancelled on Christmas Day. The airport will handle some 70,000 passengers on 600 flights.

"There are no snow-related delays today, apart from any cancellations to other airports that aren't open," the spokeswoman said. "As an airport we are operating fine."

The Eurostar train service that links London with Paris and northern Europe was not due to operate on Saturday. Trains will run again on Sunday, with only four cancellations out of 45.

Eurostar was hit with crippling delays during the week after speed limits were introduced to cope with the snow and ice.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Glimmer of good news for European passengers

  1. Closed captioning of: Glimmer of good news for European passengers

    >>> thousands of last-minute travelers in europe are finding it nearly impossible to get home for the holidays . bad weather is leaving them stranded at airports that are already dealing with days of backlogged flights. sally biddle has the latest.

    >> reporter: in paris today, little festive cheer. thousands of passengers delayed and hundreds of flights canceled. at charles degald airport, up to 5,000 travelers having to sleep overnight on the floor. heavy snow on the roof of terminal two forced an evacuation. contributing to the delays, not enough de-icer caused a third of flights to be canceled. even a special supply of the fluid didn't help to ease the chaos. it's the end of a rough week for europe's airports who struggled to get planes flying because of the snow and ice. frankfurt badly hit and london's heathrow closed for days. in belgium, passengers lined up for seven hours just to get travel updates at brussels airport as the extreme cold practically closed their air space , leaving thousands stranded there. richard and cathy are trying to get to the u.s.

    >> our kids are over there, all the rest of the family are there. but not us this time.

    >> reporter: and there are problems on the roads, too. following more heavy snowfall. in germany, a serious accident closed one of the main motorways. the pileup killing at least one person. there is a glimmer of good news, though, as stranded passengers begin to make it home. this children's choir arrived at heathrow this morning, a week late after being stranded in washington, d.c. but still in find spirits. sally biddle

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