It's a grey Christmas

For Emma and Ben, the thought of spending Christmas in Ireland with all their cousins was almost as exciting as a visit from the big man in red. With their brightly coloured suitcases packed and ready, the children, aged seven and five, sat patiently at Norwich International yesterday as they waited for their flight to be called.

For Emma and Ben, the thought of spending Christmas in Ireland with all their cousins was almost as exciting as a visit from the big man in red.

With their brightly coloured suitcases packed and ready, the children, aged seven and five, sat patiently at Norwich International yesterday as they waited for their flight to be called.

At midday there was a glimmer of hope that all would be well for the 2.15pm flight to Dublin as the freezing fog enshrouding much of Norfolk lifted slightly.

But sadly, like thousands of other people trying to travel this Christmas, the children were left disappointed as flights were grounded for the third day running.

Mum Helen Cartner said: "We were hoping to go to Dublin and then down to Cork for a big family Christmas. The kids are devastated as it was going to be very special for them to celebrate with all their cousins.

"It is a reunion which we haven't been able to do at Christmas before, involving three families plus my mum and dad. There would have been seven grandchildren.

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"Normally when we go we fly from Stansted but we thought this time it would be great to fly from Norwich which is on our doorstep. It is a bit sickening that flights are able to leave from Stansted.

"We did think about driving and getting the ferry across but I imagine the roads will be chaos in this weather."

Jon Dewing, Norwich International duty manager, said: "At midday we had just gone above 900m visibility for about the first time in three days which meant it was good enough to land a plane, but it did not last.

"Staff have been brilliant. I have nothing but admiration for them but passengers have also been very understanding."

A statement from Flybe read: "Unfortunately the situation is beyond Flybe's control but we would like to apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused and reassure passengers that we will be continuing to assess the weather situation and are doing all possible within these circumstances to ensure passengers travel."

Flights from Norwich are planned today and tomorrow with one charter flight on Christmas day.

Misery also continued for those stranded at Heathrow as British Airways had to axe another 170 flights, including all its domestic services in and out.

Another Heathrow carrier, bmi, cancelled eight flights as the fog meant air traffic controllers had, once again, to limit the number of hourly take-offs and landings.

BA was operating only long-haul services out of Heathrow where there were complaints from travellers about delays and cancellations amounting to some 350 yesterday and 1,000 in three days.

BA said it expected to operate a much-improved service from Heathrow today, with just 46 cancellations and a full service on Christmas Eve.

Train travel was pretty well normal, if busy. But the bad news was that a strike which will see all Central Trains services into and out of Norwich tomorrow cancelled is going ahead, despite the two sides almost reaching a late agreement yesterday.

Further action is planned for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Meanwhile, three days of strike action by 350 RMT members at Midland Mainline were called off by the RMT executive yesterday.

Roads were also feeling the effects of heavy traffic.

Although a lot of people apparently took the day off yesterday, it was very quiet early on although queues built up later. The M25, the M1 near Luton and the A303 heading for the West Country were among the busiest as fog made driving conditions worse.