Snowbound airport in spotlight

An investigation was launched yesterday into why flights at Athens International Airport were seriously disrupted during the recent cold snap, as farmers across Greece began counting the cost of the freezing weather on their crops. Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis initiated the probe after complaints from thousands of passengers who were unable to travel on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The airport did not officially close but only 17 flights took off and arrived between 6 p.m. on Sunday and 10 a.m. on Monday. «We cannot ignore the fact that Athens International Airport was in the midst of the bad weather,» said Hatzidakis. «But given that many questions have been asked about its smooth operation at some points during the bad weather and whether passengers were kept up to date, I have asked the Civil Aviation Authority to look into the matter.» Athens International Airport (AIA) was fined 3 million euros in 2004 following a probe into why it closed for six hours on February 13 due to bad weather. A court later overturned the fine. AIA resumed normal operation yesterday with just a handful of flights being canceled. Meanwhile, inspectors from the Hellenic Agricultural Insurance Organization (ELGA) were dispatched to various parts of the country, including the Peloponnese, central Greece and Crete, to help farmers assess the amount of damage that the freezing weather had done to their crops. Estimates were not available yesterday but it is thought that the snow has wreaked considerable damage on oranges, olives and a variety of vegetables in these areas.