London: An estimated 1,000 passengers trying to get away for Christmas had to spend the night in Heath-row airport lounges after their flights were cancelled in thick fog.

Passengers faced more disruption yesterday as London airports struggle to cope with the backlog and the continuing fog has forced the cancellation of 56 flights at Heathrow and 12 at Gatwick.

Yesterday's Heathrow cancellations were mainly domestic and short-haul European. Hundreds of travellers to British destinations such as Edinburgh and Newcastle were being put on coaches, resulting in trips of up to eight hours.

Airport owner BAA provided blankets and chairs for makeshift beds over-night at Heathrow as 10,000 were hit by the disruption.

Families return home

A total of 120 flights were cancelled at London airports on Sunday. At Heath-row, British Airways axed 80 flights with 21 cancelled at Gatwick. At London City Airport, the runway was forced to close for a time, resulting in 30 cancelled flights.

Families waited for hours but some gave up on their Christmas breaks and returned home.

Jana Zamastilova, 27, a waitress from Walthamstow, was forced to spend the night at Heathrow. She said: "I have been queuing to rebook my ticket to Prague. They told us the desk was closing and would reopen at 5am. I want to be first in line to get a new flight."

English teacher Marteen Witts, 34, sobbed as she told her mother her flight to Aberdeen was cancelled. She said: "I live in Denmark and I have not spent Christmas with my mum for eight years. I don't know where to go or what to do. There are 10,000 people here and no one is coming round helping."

Michael Siney, 30, was heading to Newcastle from Hong Kong to spend Christmas with his family. He said: "I was going to take the train for the last bit of my journey but I thought it would be a lot quicker to fly - how wrong I was. I don't know when I'll get back."

Also stuck at Terminal 1 was language assistant Nicole Hahn, 24. She wept as she said her attempts to go home to Frankfurt were in ruins. She said: "They have given me a customer relations number but it is not working. I don't know when I will get home."

A BA spokeswoman said: "We have had to cancel 28 return trips today. We hope that will be the final figure but it is a bit of a moveable feast because of the weather. We had 279 return flights scheduled so the number of cancellations is quite small.

Domestic destinations

"We are trying to get passengers away on alternative flights although we are using coaches to UK domestic destinations. The flights are mainly short-haul or domestic, where there are frequent services and we can get passengers on a later flight. But we advise all passengers to check before they travel."

London City Airport also suffered more early disruption yesterday. Six European flights were cancelled, to the Continent, Edinburgh and Dublin.

Stansted was operating on schedule.

A Met Office spokesman said the fog was being replaced by milder and wetter weather, meaning the chances of a white Christmas are fading fast.

Heavy traffic was expected on the roads.