Prime minister David Cameron has been offered Heathrow airport the assistance of the national military to help clear flight delays that have stranded thousands of travellers across Europe.

Cameron told reporters that his government had “offered military assistance” to the company that operates Heathrow airport.

Freezing temperatures, settled snowfalls and icy runways have left the world’s busiest airport operating only a fraction of its usual flights on a single runway for days now.

Cameron promised that Heathrow’s second runway would be active by tonight (Tuesday evening).

He said he was “frustrated on behalf of all those affected that it has taken so long for the situation to improve.”

However, BAA, the company that runs Heathrow, politely refused the offer saying the equipment used to clear the snow was quite specialised.

Meanwhile,  BAA chief executive Colin Matthews told the BBC he denied allegations that the airport has not invested in enough snow clearing equipment.

“The last two weeks of weather have not been seen in Heathrow before,” Matthews said.

Amid mounting criticism of the airport’s response to the weekend’s heavy snowfall,
airline passengers have been told to expect delays and flight cancellations “beyond
Christmas Day”.

Some passengers have taken to wearing Santa hats decorated with vulgar signs as they make the most of the lead-up to their very un-merry Christmas.