Easter holidays off to a chaotic start

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As many as 90,000 airline passengers expecting to fly out of Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen on Friday were met with a chaotic start to their Easter holiday week. Flights were still disrupted after Thursday’s heavy snowfall, and stranded passengers who spent the night at the airport were clamouring for seats on Friday flights that already were full.

This was the scene Friday morning, as thousands of travelers tried to fly out of Oslo's main airport at Gardermoen. PHOTO: Avinor/OSL Gardermoen web camera

This was the scene Friday morning, as thousands of travelers tried to fly out of Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. PHOTO: Avinor/OSL Gardermoen web camera

The departures hall at OSL Gardermoen was packed with frustrated travelers Friday morning, at the start of one of the busiest travel days of the year. Norwegians taking advantage of the country’s traditional five-day long Easter holiday weekend often take the whole week off, and lots of them were eager to fly.

They instead faced long lines at the check-in and baggage-drop counters, as the airlines were also still trying to make arrangements for all the passengers who were stranded by the snowstorm on Thursday. “We slept here on the concrete floor last night,” Jacob Sørensen, who had been waiting for his flight for 24 hours, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “All the airport hotels are full, so we had no choice.”

Bumped and grumpy
Most all scheduled flights on Friday were already full, so those who got bumped on Thursday were competing for seats that simply weren’t available. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was actually telling passengers to either return home or simply wait. All passengers willing to fly out on another day later in the Easter holiday week were told they could get their tickets changed later. Norwegian Air and Widerøe also had to accommodate passengers who weren’t able to fly out on Thursday when the airport was forced to close because of the weather.

Airport and airline officials were further hindered by freezing fog during the morning hours, which forced air traffic controllers to increase the distance between incoming aircraft trying to land. That was also leading to delays on Friday.

“Very many people unfortunately were not able to travel yesterday (Thursday),” OSL spokesman Joachim Wester Andersen told NRK. “The airlines could arrange alternative transport for some, while others had to spend the night and try to travel today.” A large portion of the 83,000 people who were supposed to leave on Thursday ended up joining the 90,000 expected on Friday, resulting in the terminal crowds.

“Folks need to expect that they’re going to be spending more time at the airport, and that they need to be more patient than on an ordinary travel day,” Andersen said.

Other transport rolling again
Meanwhile, the trains, trams and bus transport that ground to a halt in the blizzard on Thursday were rolling again on Friday. Temperatures rose as well, so snowdrifts that didn’t get cleared on the roads and sidewalks were melting.

The traffic chaos that hit most of southern and eastern Norway was described as “extraordinary” by officials at Ruter, which runs the Oslo-area public transport system. “We haven’t experienced anything like that for 30 years,” said Ruter spokesman Trond Brekke.

Those heading off this weekend for holidays in the mountains could expect most roads to be open, while those heading to holiday homes along the coast faced unusual amounts of snow at a time when they otherwise could expect to prepare their boats for the summer season.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund