Saturday 25 February 2017

They wept, ranted, prayed

Massive queues and frustration at airport

Allison Bray and Ailish O'Hora

SOME wept. A few ranted. A small number even used their trolleys to bully their way through the massive queues that snaked through the departures lounge at Dublin Airport after heavy snowfall shut down the country's main airport yesterday.

But in keeping with the spirit of the season, most of the estimated 40,000 passengers who were grounded yesterday resigned themselves to their fate and prayed they would get home for Christmas.

Some had little choice but to bed down at the airport overnight. Brothers Gus and Martin Dunleavy, originally from Collinstown, Co Westmeath, were trying to get to Martin's son's wedding in Leeds on New Year's Day but their flight was cancelled.

Gus had already travelled thousands of miles from Adelaide in Australia to attend the celebrations but they were hopeful they would get there on time. "All we can do is hope, things might be better tomorrow," said Gus.

For the McCullough family, Christmas was all but ruined. Karl, his wife Silvie and four-year-old Cillian had to drive back to Galway last night after their flight to Italy was cancelled. They had hoped to spend Christmas with her family in Padova, near Venice, but the next flight will not depart until St Stephen's Day at best.

"We are missing Christmas in Italy with my family but there is nothing we can do," Silvie said.

To add to the frustration of those travelling, even those that made it to Dublin spent hours in a taxi queue outside the airport despite appeals from Dublin Airport Authority to taxi drivers to come to the airport to collect hundreds of stranded passengers.

The main departures area was like a scene from the movie 'Airport' -- sleeping bodies strewn on chairs, bags, trollies and massive queues for internet access, as desperate passengers struggled to find a bed in Dublin.

One English passenger managed an ironic smile after a bedraggled airline employee curtly informed him he would have to go "home" and rebook his flight online if he had any hope of flying.

Limbo

"Home?," he asked raising an eyebrow.

"I'm from London and have been trying to get home for the past two days," he told her before resigning himself to what looked like another night in limbo.

Louis Cornelli (33) was just as resigned. The Mexican national has been literally up in the air since last Friday when he left Mexico to visit his family in Switzerland.

He had been diverted to Dublin from London due to heavy snow on Saturday.

"I'm an accidental tourist," he joked. "But what can we do?"

He had already spent two nights in Shannon and another night in Dublin and had no idea yesterday if and when he would make it to Switzerland.

Michele Froio (20), from Rome, spent Monday night sleeping on a hard plastic chair.

The Letterkenny Institute of Technology student had already had a gruelling six-hour drive to ensure that he would make his flight to Rome on Monday afternoon.

"I'd like to get home but if there are no choices, I'll stay in Ireland," he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish host families of 50 children who were left orphaned or severely disabled as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster waited patiently at the airport yesterday for their 'Chernobyl children' to arrive.

Some of the children had travelled 1,000km before even flying out from Vilinus, Lithuania, yesterday, only to be diverted to Edinburgh due to the closure of Dublin.

They were finally due to arrive at Dublin Airport last night after flying to Belfast and getting a bus from there.

On hand to greet them in his Santa suit was retiree Michael Burke (65), from Freshford, Co Kilkenny.

"You couldn't leave them disappointed," he said. "However long it takes, we don't mind as long as they get here safe and sound."

Irish Independent

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