Endless queues in airports, flights cancelled midair and luggage that goes missing for weeks are among holidaymakers’ top gripes
There were fresh scenes of spiralling queues at airline check-in desks yesterday as holidaymakers faced a continuing summer of flight cancellations, lost baggage and long wait times.
The disruption comes as airports across Europe struggle to cope with Covid-related staffing shortages and ongoing strike action.
This weekend hundreds of irate passengers bombarded Aer Lingus with complaints of cancelled flights and baggage that has failed to materialise weeks after landing.
In a statement to this newspaper, Aer Lingus apologised to customers and said “teams” at the airline were working to get them on the next available flights.
Their comments came as Aer Lingus announced further cancellations to flights today including two return flights to/from Dublin Airport: EI482 to Lisbon at 7.10am and EI436 to Milan at 5.30pm.
Four other flights have also been cancelled on Sunday with more announcements expected later today.
Over the past week Aer Lingus has now cancelled more than 60 flights, though it says in total just over 1pc of its flights were affected by cancellations in June.
The airline said the cancellations were a direct result of “a significant spike in Covid cases” among staff.
However one staff member at Aer Lingus, who was at Dublin airport yesterday afternoon and wished to remain anonymous, disputed the airline’s reasoning.
Asked why Ryanair flights have not been impacted by Covid-related staff shortages, he pointed out: “Aer Lingus don’t have enough staff and they are using Covid as an excuse.”
Mary Scally from Roscommon is one of many desperate passengers who have begged the airline to search for her baggage after growing frustrated with the lack of a satisfactory response.
On the airline’s Twitter account she wrote: “Will I just drive up to Dublin and search the bags in the baggage hall because I would prefer to do that rather than this horrendous waiting around for someone to contact me. It’s beyond ridiculous at this stage. My bag was found last Monday — send it out or let me come get it.”
Speaking to the Sunday Independent Ms Scally said her €10,000 family holiday was ruined because of the stress caused by airline disruptions. The family of five had travelled to Las Vegas for her husband’s 50th birthday.
But after a cancelled Air Canada flight, a night spent sleeping on the floor in a US airport and baggage that has still not been returned by Aer Lingus two weeks after arriving home, she said: “Any relaxation from the holiday is a distant memory with all the stress that has been caused. We had been looking forward to this trip for three years.
“I would tell anyone thinking of travelling this summer: don’t unless you absolutely have to. And if you are travelling, make sure not to put your bags in the hold at all.”
A clinical specialist working in Tallaght University Hospital in south-west Dublin said their flight cancellation came five minutes before boarding, and they were forced to cancel a day of appointments for vulnerable patients.
The chaos comes weeks after Dublin Airport said it had managed to get control over their own staffing shortages.
Dublin Airport Authority chief executive Dalton Phillips said it had reached its target of 700 extra staff by this weekend and the authority had been able to get 93pc of passengers through security in under 45 minutes, while around four-fifths are passing through in less than 30 minutes.
Addressing photos posted on social media of the airport’s terminals littered with rubbish, he said staffing shortages meant the “easy thing” to do would be “to do what other airports around Europe have done and simply cut 10pc to 20pc of their flight schedule”.
“We’d instantly be able to guarantee shorter queuing times and sharpen our focus on issues such as cleaning, but we’d also be denying tens of thousands of passengers their trips.”
Mr Philips also confirmed the army were “ready for deployment if needed, by the end of this week”.
“They have already commenced training to patrol our perimeter vehicle checkpoint posts. They will remain available to us for a fixed period of six weeks until August 15 and we will only call on them in the event of a sharp spike in Covid cases among our own security team.
“Passengers won’t see them in the terminals as they’d only ever be positioned in non-passenger facing locations.”
Mr Phillips also said the DAA was committed to reimbursing all costs relating to this to the Department of Defence.
Holidaymakers who were left stranded at Dublin Airport due to cancelled flights were trying to get accommodation as hotel occupancy peaks in the capital.
Ben Robinson and husband Frank Echols were diverted to Dublin Airport after their flight was cancelled by Air Canada en route to Venice. “We have heard how difficult it is to find a hotel here, but my husband is smiling now so he must have got lucky,” Mr Robinson said.
Hanging up the phone, Mr Echols said: “I’ve just managed to get a room for €369 for the night in the Radisson Hotel or €320 in the Maldron Hotel beside Dublin airport. As long as we get a bed for the night that’s all that matters.”
This July, upwards of 50,000 passengers are expected to depart every day from Dublin Airport, which means passengers numbers are back to 95pc of the levels seen in summer 2019.
Meanwhile Spain-based cabin crew at Ryanair announced yesterday their plan to strike for 12 days this month.