Friday 15 December 2017

Short flight turned into a 24-hour odyssey

Edel O'Connell

THE Eskimos have more than 40 names for snow. The Irish, it seems, have as many expletives for it.

I heard plenty of them amid the thousands of Irish people caught up in travel chaos.

A simple return journey from London Stansted to Dublin Airport evolved into a 24-hour version of the movie 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'.

Stansted resembled a sprawling refugee camp on Monday as desperate passengers stared at the flight information scenes.

As soon as it was confirmed that our flight had been cancelled, people started to sprint toward the ticket desk hoping to book another flight.

Hundreds of people tried to run like Olympian hurdlers, leaping over large suitcases and small children in a bid to get ahead of the posse.

A rumour started to spread through the 300-strong crowd at the Ryanair ticket desk that it was closing in 20 minutes.

The closer you got to the desk the further away the next available flight seemed to become. At one point somebody mentioned January. It was clearly time for Plan B.

Having secured one of the last remaining tickets for a ferry to Dublin the next day it was back to London for a hotel.

But the next morning Euston Station was like a warzone. And when the platform was announced for the train to Holyhead, the transformation in the mood was dramatic.

People who had been chatting and joking a few minutes previously turned into speed demons sprinting towards the platform.

We managed to get on the train only to be informed that only the first five carriages would go to Holyhead. Ours would terminate at Chester.

There was no way through the train so we had to make do with being crushed between two carriages with all the other hapless ferry-bound hopefuls.

It wasn't long before we were swopping horror stories and having a laugh about how the English would have to "bail us out again".

An Irish couple who live in Perth, Australia told how they had been travelling for 10 days to get home for Christmas while a Dublin man, William Whyte told how his young daughter had run out of medication for her medical condition.

When the announcement came over the tannoy that they had decided to take the whole train to Holyhead a cheer went up the likes of which has not been heard since Italia 90.

Finally, after four back-breaking hours getting up close and personal with complete strangers we boarded a crowded ferry bound for snowy Dublin.

Irish Independent

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