The Government has lifted night flight restrictions at Heathrow over the next four days in a bid to ease travel chaos at the airport.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has said that operating hours will be allowed to continue until 1am, and that arrivals for repatriation flights will be permitted throughout the night.

The airport is operating a reduced flying schedule until 6am on Wednesday December 22, with a maximum of one-third of flights due to run during this period.

Passengers are being asked to check the airport’s website to see if their flight is running. If a flight shows ‘contact airline’, it means it is not operating.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded at the airport which has been shut since five inches of snow fell in an hour on Saturday. Many have been forced to sleep on the floor for the last two nights under foil blankets.

One of the airport’s two runways is now open and ice has been cleared from almost half of its 200 parking stands.

Hammond told the BBC that he would be investigating the handling of stranded passengers.

“Once we have got through the problem, once we have got things moving again, then we will have to have that discussion and find out exactly what went wrong and, most importantly, what went wrong in handling passengers who were stranded,” he said.

British Airways planned to operate as many long-haul flights as possible today (Monday), but all short-haul flights after midday were cancelled due to the restrictions.

A British Airways spokesman said that customers travelling from Heathrow are encouraged to cancel their flight in return for a full refund or change their flight to another date within the next 12 months.