Heathrow Airport has explained why it cancelled flights hours before the snow fell after angry travellers took to social media questioning the decision.

Around 80 flights were removed from the schedule yesterday (Thursday January 12) as the Met Office predicted snow fall and issued a yellow weather warning for the south east region.

Holiday goers were left furious when they found their early flights were not going ahead as planned, even though the first snowfall in London was during the evening rush hour.

Video thumbnail, Look at the snowfall! Snow finally reaches London
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Look at the fall! Snow finally reaches London

But Heathrow Airport officials said once a weather forecast has been made, National Air Traffic Services (NATS) assess whether it "might have an impact on runway capacity" before agreeing with airline companies to halt flights.

An airport official said: "When severe disruption at Heathrow is expected, a decision may be made to reduce the flight schedule in advance in order to introduce slack into the system and improve resilience."

The procedure, put in place in 2011, also means that due to a packed schedule, flights cannot be rearranged for later on in the day and the timetable must be discussed as early as possible.

The process which Heathrow Airport have put in place for cancelling flights because of weather reports. Pic: Heathrow Airport

A Heathrow Airport spokesman told getwestlondon: "Although we are operating as normal today, the runways had to close on Thursday to allow for the runways to be cleared and de-iced."

Heathrow snow preparation: The Figures

  • Clearing a runway of snow can take around 30 minutes from cessation of snowfall, which would typically affect 15 to 20 flights
  • Because Heathrow is the world's busiest two runway airport, delayed flights because of weather will not be re-arranged for later in the day due to the full schedule
How Heathrow Aiport prepare for snow. Pic: Heathrow Airport
  • In case of snow fall, anti-icing is applied to runways, taxiways, stands and airside roads in advance of snow, frost and ice.
  • Snow clearing teams switch between runways – aiming to keep one open whilst the other is cleared

Travellers anger at lack of snow as flights cancelled

The decision was not favoured by those flying to and from the airport however, as news travelled of the cancellations.

Comments began flooding Twitter as social media users remarked on the early precautions.

Some referred to it as a "bold move", whereas others said no one will appreciate the decision.

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