Tens of thousands of easyJet passengers were told late on Friday that their holiday flights on Saturday had been cancelled.
Britain's biggest budget airline has grounded 234 flights to and from the UK on Saturday – affecting at least 40,000 passengers.
Many of them are families booked on winter sun or ski trips for half-term. Dozens of flights to key ski airports, including Geneva, Grenoble, Salzburg and Turin, have been grounded – as well as at least 20 services to and from the popular half-term destinations of Canaries and Madeira.
But those groundings were eclipsed by the sudden cancellation by easyJet of 234 flights.
Most of them are at the airline’s main base, Gatwick. Almost 150 departures and arrivals have been deleted from the destination boards, including multiple departures to Geneva, Barcelona and Faro in Portugal.
Luton is next worst affected, with 16 ski flights – to Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon – making up one third of the 48 cancellations.
Travellers to and from Bristol face 38 cancellations, including eight to and from Geneva and four to Salzburg and back.
Services to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Southend and Stansted are also hit.
“Customers on cancelled flights were given the option of transferring their flight free of charge or receiving a refund,” an easyJet spokesperson said.
“Due to forecasted adverse weather conditions caused by Storm Dennis, easyJet, like other airlines, is currently seeing disruption to its flight programme for Saturday 15 February.
“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel. We will also provide hotel rooms and meals for customers who require them.”
The airline is required to provide seats on the next available flight. But at half-term, alternative services are generally fully booked; easyJet will not lay on additional flights after Storm Dennis dwindles.
One family booked on easyJet from Gatwick to Turin could not find any alternative transport, and are now driving to the Italian Alps.
At Heathrow, British Airways has cancelled 40 short-haul flights to and from Heathrow on Saturday afternoon and evening. The routes to Amsterdam, Glasgow are worst affected.
BA’s partner, Iberia, has grounded a round trip from Madrid to Heathrow. Lufthansa has cancelled Saturday evening flights to Frankfurt and Munich. Virgin Atlantic’s evening flight from Heathrow to Boston is grounded.
Further cancellations may occur at short notice when the storm moves in on Saturday.
Compensation is not payable under European air passengers’ rights rules, as the cancellations are beyond the airlines’ control.