Christmas travel chaos continues after storm Pia and Eurotunnel strike cancel flights and Eurostar trains

Tens of thousands of travellers have woken up far from where they wanted to be today, after a sudden strike closed the Channel Tunnel for most of the day – and severe weather wrecked journey plans within the UK.

Meanwhile, Heathrow airport is expecting its busiest December ever, with maximum passenger numbers passing through today.

An estimated 25,000 passengers booked on Eurostar on Thursday found their cross-Channel trains cancelled.

Thirty trains connecting London with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam were axed when the tunnel was closed due to a walk-out by French staff.

Eurostar trains have now resumed. At London St Pancras International, passengers are queuing to attempt to rebook after Thursday’s cancellations.

The international train operator is also running eight extra services to try to clear the backlog by Christmas Eve. An additional London-Paris round-trip will operate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Extra trains are also running on Friday from Brussels and Paris to London.

A Eurostar spokesperson said: “A full Eurostar timetable out of London, Paris and Brussels is running today with eight extra services added and over 10,000 extra seats available for the next three days.

“Eurostar’s full focus today and over the weekend is on getting people home and on holiday for Christmas.

“Although yesterday’s events were out of Eurostar’s control, the team is working around the clock to provide support to all customers affected and is committed to ensuring they reach their destinations in time to have a fantastic festive period.”

Car-carrying shuttles between Folkestone and Calais resumed on Thursday evening after the industrial action was lifted.

A spokesperson for Eurotunnel said: “Eurotunnel management and trade union representatives have reached an agreement at the end of a day marked by strike action which led to the closure of the terminals and the interruption of services since midday.

“Eurotunnel welcomes this agreement and reiterates its apologies to all LeShuttle customers as well as Eurostar passengers and rail freight operators whose traffic has been impacted by this strike.”

London Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, is expecting Friday to be its busiest day of the winter with 250,000 travellers passing through. The airport expects a record-breaking December to end the year, with passenger numbers fully recovered after the Covid pandemic.

Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports also say Friday will be the busiest day of the winter.

At Manchester and Stansted airports, Saturday is predicted to see maximum passenger numbers.

British Airways has cancelled 20 domestic and European flights to and from Heathrow, including links with Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow.

The outbound BA European departures served Basel, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Geneva and Munich, together with the return legs.

spokesperson for British Airways said: “Due to the continuing air traffic control restrictions put in place because of Storm Pia, we have had to make some adjustments to our schedule.

“We have apologised to our customers for any disruption to their travel plans and our teams are working hard to get them on their way as quickly as possible.”

On Britain’s railways, Friday and Saturday are expected to be the busiest days of the festive season – with extra pressure on the key London terminals of Paddington and King’s Cross. Both intercity stations will be closed on Christmas Eve due to engineering work.

Tens of thousands of passengers on both the East Coast and West Coast main lines had their trains cancelled on Thursday due to problems associated with Storm Pia.

Dozens of trains in and out of London Euston and King’s Cross were axed after problems with power lines.

The main East Coast rail firm, LNER, said: “We sincerely apologise for the impact to travel plans ahead of the festive period, due to the strong winds that affected LNER services on Thursday 21 December.”

Tickets from cancelled trains on Thursday can be used on any LNER services on Friday.

All peak ticket restrictions have been lifted by Avanti West Coast until Sunday 7 January, allowing passengers to travel using cheaper off-peak fares.

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