Thousands Left Stranded at Istanbul Airport After Heavy Snowfall Prompts Flight Cancellations

© REUTERS / UMIT BEKTASStranded passengers wait for their flights at Istanbul airport, which is suspending flights due to heavy snowfall, in Istanbul, Turkey January 25, 2022.
Stranded passengers wait for their flights at Istanbul airport, which is suspending flights due to heavy snowfall, in Istanbul, Turkey January 25, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.01.2022
Turkey’s largest city recently got hit by unusual and heavy snowfall, bringing flight and road transportation to a complete halt that ultimately left thousands of travelers temporarily stranded. The weekend’s weather has also been affecting other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, trapping drivers on Athen’s roads.
Turkey’s Istanbul Airport was forced to shut down due to snowfall and blizzards, causing passengers to take to Twitter to air out their grievances and voice their frustrations at the airport and Turkish Airlines.
Videos posted to Twitter show passengers chanting, “We need hotel” and walking in circles. Passengers also tweeted, stressing that they had been stranded for over 30 hours at the airport without food or water from the airport’s staff. Chants were met with Turkish police who were briefly deployed to the scene.
The snow began hitting Istanbul on Sunday, but it wasn’t until Monday that the airport began to announce a suspension of flights through Tuesday morning - the same day authorities in the area started shutting down roads, shopping malls, and food delivery services. Nonessential government officials were also told to stay home.
However, it was later determined that the airport’s suspension of flights would be extended until midnight on Wednesday while the airport’s staff and crew made efforts to clear the accumulated 16 inches of snow from their runways.
The heavy snowfall saw Antalya, a city located on Turkey’s coast, experience its first snowfall in 29 years. In other parts of Istanbul, up to 31 inches of snow fell, stranding drivers and motorists who were then forced to either sleep in their vehicles or else abandon them altogether.
Highways and roads reopened on Tuesday afternoon, according to an announcement from Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu on Twitter.
By Tuesday, the airport tweeted that they were giving stranded passengers free Wi-Fi access, 27,500 lunch boxes, and 3,600 blankets at no cost. The airport’s spokesperson Seyda Yilmaz spoke to The Washington Post in a Tuesday phone interview and relayed that the situation was “under control.” In response to passengers’ demanding hotels, she said the responsibility to provide hotels fell under the authority of each passenger’s airline, not the airport.
Istanbul Airport is supposed to become the world’s largest international airport once its construction is completed, which would make it the largest infrastructure project Turkey has yet to take on.
Athens struggled with the impacted weather, as well, with more than 3,500 people having to be rescued on Monday, but with about 300 drivers forced to sleep in their cars overnight on the Attiki Odos motorway. The storm, which is named Elpida, will persist until Wednesday.
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