Weather wreaks havoc on festive travellers
Published 21/12/2010 | 05:00
THOUSANDS of Irish emigrants last night had their travel plans thrown into disarray as they try and get home for Christmas through the dire weather.
Two-thirds of flights were cancelled at Heathrow airport in London yesterday, leaving a large backlog of Irish travellers who had to rearrange their travel plans for the festive season.
And because Heathrow is a major hub airport, passengers travelling to Ireland from all around the world were hit.
Aer Lingus said half of all their scheduled flights in and out of the busy hub were cancelled while Ryanair had to cancel some flights between Dublin and Brussels, London Stansted and Milan.
Both airlines said they would try to provide extra flights to make up for the shortfall. Typically most flights are full during the Christmas period as people come home for the season.
Hundreds of people were forced to bed down in Heathrow as a result of the disruptions.
Police and airport staff tried to control the crowds as passengers faced a wait of up to two hours just to get into the airport. They were told that once they were in, they could not leave.
American tax office worker Kelly Northime (43) was stuck on her way to Shannon to see her mother Marion, who lives in Limerick. "I flew to Heathrow from Philadelphia and got here about 7am Saturday. I was supposed to get a connecting flight to Shannon but it got cancelled and I'm still waiting to hear if I can get on another one," she said yesterday.
Sarah Hyland, who lives in Fulham, West London, was trying to return to Dublin to spend time with her family.
"When we got here today it was literally mayhem. There were police at every entrance and they were not letting anyone through. No one was telling us what was going on," she said.
"We were waiting in the freezing cold for over two hours. It was so bad staff had to hand out heat blankets. There were people with children and I saw some pregnant women. No one was helping. We didn't know what was going on. There was even talk there was a bomb scare at one stage. Even if we had wanted to leave we couldn't, it was just so busy. It was an absolute mess."
Meanwhile, 2,000 people who were bound for UK airports were stranded in Dublin when their flights were diverted. They were accommodated in nearby hotels.
Over 2,300 air travellers from Nigeria, Japan, Canada and the US spent the weekend in hotels across Clare and Limerick due to disruptions at Heathrow which meant they were diverted to Shannon.
A man returning home suffered a flight cancellation and a broken-down train which resulted in him having to make a 16-hour coach journey home. Jimmy McCloskey (25) had to book the trip after his flight to Derry from Stansted was cancelled.