Abta has backed calls for an inquiry into BAA’s response to the snow and ice that hit services at UK airports this week.

Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The disruption caused by the weather appears to have been made worse by a lack of preparedness and information for customers.

“The test of any system is how resilient it is under stressed conditions. Heathrow seems to have failed spectacularly.”

Tanzer added: “Christmas is a peak season for travel, and scenes of thousands of stranded passengers, whose holiday plans are in disarray, have sent alarm signals to the travelling public, and seriously dented consumer confidence.

“The confused situation at Heathrow has placed an additional burden and costs on ABTA members as they try to rebook their customers on scarce flights.

“2010 has been characterised by a number of extreme conditions (snow earlier this year followed by volcanic ash, followed by snow again) which have caused widespread cancellations, and left passengers stranded at home and abroad. 

“The welfare of the travelling public is Abta’s primary concern, and the association has called for a full review of the structural and regulatory framework that supports the travelling public when en route and overseas.”

His hard-hitting comments came as Heathrow’s second runway reopened last night but owner BAA warned that the severe weather is continuing to cause flight disruption.

The London hub is operating a reduced flight schedule today while dozens of aircraft and thousands of crew members move back into position across Europe, an airport statement said this morning.

About 70% of the schedule – around 880 flights – are due to operate today.

Passengers continue to be advised to check the Heathrow website for a full list of the flights that airlines using the airport plan to operate today.   

“If a particular flight is not on this list then customers for that departure should not travel to the airport,” the airport said.

Bmi chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer described the situation at Heathrow as “completely unacceptable,” reportedly saying: “BAA was not prepared. It did not have enough de-icing fluid.”

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his “frustration” at the length of the disruption at Heathrow.

Eurostar said it was operating a near-normal service. But the operator asked only people with tickets for travel today to turn up at the station.

Snow was falling across north Wales, the Midlands and parts of the North East this morning. Heavy snow warnings are in place for Wales, the North West, West and East Midlands, eastern England and the South West.