Thousands caught in crisis touch down at Shannon
Published 21/04/2010 | 05:00
The first Irish passengers to land in the country since last week finally touched down in Shannon last night.
They arrived on an Aer Lingus plane from the Canary Islands, while five British Airways jets were due to land with almost 1,500 passengers on board.
Some Irish passengers expressed frustration at the difficulties created by the ash crisis while others said they were just relieved at arriving back in Ireland.
About 100 passengers arrived on the Aer Lingus flight from Tenerife.
Kieran Rouse, from Ballina, Co Mayo, said: "We were in Tenerife for a week's holidays and were supposed to come back last Saturday. We didn't know when we'd be going home until literally last night when someone said book on the Aer Lingus site.
"We booked a flight and then got a text at 6.30am to say it was cancelled so we went back on the computer again to see if we could book another flight and we were told that there was a flight for Dublin but that it was being diverted to Shannon. I was lucky because my car was here in Shannon anyway."
Mr Rouse, who said it was the first time in six years that his whole family was away together on holiday, said: "I had to foot all my own bills and I actually owe a bill back there at the moment but I have been on the phone to them.
"We were lucky that we were in the hotel all the time but there were people who had to stay in the airport for a few days."
Another passenger, Rose O'Connor from Malahide, said: "We went to the airport and just sat there and then we were told there was a flight going to Dublin. We are delighted to be in Shannon.
"It was grand for us. There was no hardship in the sun but it was the uncertainty of not knowing whether we were going to get back. We only had to wait a few days but there were some people who have been there over a week."
Joanne Bedford, from Drogheda, Co Louth said: "We are delighted to be home, thank God. We were meant to be in Tenerife for a week and it turned out to be 12 days in the end and we spent two days in the airport. We had to get money sent from home to my husband's bank account. There was no other talk about how we were going to get home. No one was enjoying any extra days, everybody just wanted to get home."
Meanwhile, five British Airways aircraft en route from the US to London were also expected to divert to Shannon Airport. The flights were prevented from continuing on to Heathrow and had to set down in Shannon last night .
Shannon Airport confirmed that they were advised of the diversions and that hundreds of passengers would have to be accommodated in local hotels.
The airport, due to close at 7pm, was allowed by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to remain open to "facilitate the safe return of British Airways aircraft already en route".
Up to 1,500 hotel rooms were provisionally booked in the Clare/Limerick region last night for the BA planeloads of passengers, expected to be stranded in Shannon.
Local coach operator PJ Keogh was on standby with up to 25 coaches to ferry the British Airways passengers