Sunday 24 September 2017

We were lucky to secure the last room before airline exiles swamped Lisbon

Tourists left stranded at Lisbon Airport in Portugal after a fuel pump breakdown. Photo: PA
Tourists left stranded at Lisbon Airport in Portugal after a fuel pump breakdown. Photo: PA
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Communication is key in any crisis. And its swift deployment by Aer Lingus on Wednesday spared my twin and I the "absolute carnage" endured by many Irish travellers who have been caught up in Lisbon Airport's disastrous 'fuel glitch'.

Chaos ensued after the underground pumping system used to deliver fuel to airplanes failed.

But neither the fact of, nor the consequences of, the "glitch" was adequately conveyed to passengers, many of whom were elderly or travelling with small children.

As a result, passengers were forced to endure "animal-like" conditions, sleeping on floors and luggage carousels as police and security personnel looked on helplessly.

Others were forced to spend hours locked in planes that were stranded on tarmac awaiting clarity from officials as to when operations could get going again.

Read More: Thousands of flyers unable to get home

We were lucky as Aer Lingus sent a text alert informing us of our flight cancellation before we left our hotel, an hour outside of Lisbon, allowing us to make alternative accommodation arrangements.

And we just about managed to secure the last room after the hotel was taken over by scores of airline exiles dispatched across the Portuguese capital and its satellite towns and villages.

But it was a costly setback in terms of time and money.

And not everyone will have enough money or patience at the end of a holiday or business trip to fund, upfront, glitches like these.

We take airline travel for granted and seem to have bought in, as consumers, to the notion that the price of paying so-called 'cattle class' fares means we are entitled to be treated like cattle too.

That's true, perhaps, to some degree - you get what you pay for - but there are limits to human endurance and goodwill.

Most of us accept inconveniences will happen from time to time.

Airlines and airports should too and be much better prepared to inform and support travellers when their systems fail.

Irish Independent

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