BAA, Britain's largest airports operator, says the heavy snowfall in December cost £24 million. 

BAA's UK airports handled 7.2 million passengers in December 2010, a decrease of 10.9 percent on December 2009.

The approximate financial cost by airport, measured in terms of the reduction in profit, was £19 million at Heathrow, £1 million at Stansted, and £4 million across the group's four other UK airports of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Southampton.    

The company released a statement saying: "The drop in passenger traffic is almost entirely due to the disruptive effects of the coldest December since records began in the UK, which affected much of North West Europe and latterly the North Eastern seaboard of the US."

Thousands of travellers had their holiday plans disrupted when Heathrow closed for four days just before Christmas. BAA was heavily criticised by airlines and passengers for its response to the snow, with claims that Heathrow failed to buy sufficient de-icing fluid for its runways.

Both Virgin Atlantic, which lost £10 million, and Lufthansa believe there is a case for financial compensation, but BAA boss Colin Matthews dismisses the airlines' case, saying the snow plan had previously been agreed upon by carriers.

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