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Saturday 16 December 2017

Thousands left stranded as holiday travel grinds to a halt

Breda Heffernan

IT was not the start to the new year they had hoped for.

Thousands of air passengers were marooned at a snow and ice-bound Dublin Airport yesterday, throwing their holiday plans into disarray.

Some early morning flights were delayed by up to five hours due to the weather conditions.

George and Marianne Vesprani, a couple from Cincinatti, Ohio, in the United States, had jetted in from New York.

And they were only supposed to be on a two-hour layover in Ireland before catching an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Lisbon from where they would begin a dream cruise.

Instead, 24 hours after they left JFK, they found themselves standing in a queue of several hundred people through Dublin Airport.

"We had to land at Shannon at 5.25am because we were told Dublin was closed. We spent over four hours waiting on the plane because they couldn't let us off because there were no customs or immigration people on duty yet," said George.

"We had a four-hour bus ride to Dublin and now here we are in this queue and our flight to Lisbon is gone," he added.

The couple were told there will be no flight for them to Lisbon today so their only hope is to fly out tomorrow and rush to catch the cruiseliner before it sets sail at 6pm.

"It's a cruise back to Fort Lauderdale. This is a brand new ship on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, I really hope we get it," said Marianne.

Meanwhile Kevin O'Donnell, a project manager from Dublin, was due to catch a flight to Heathrow and from there another one to Shanghai where he will begin a new job.

"I'm four hours waiting in this queue. My flight was supposed to leave at 10.20am to London and now my flight to Shanghai has gone. I've people waiting for me in Shanghai and I've no way of contacting them.

"It's going to be problematic by we'll sort it out," he added.


Paula Cooney from Mayo, who had travelled home to Ireland from Phoenix, Arizona, had her flight to Heathrow cancelled and was wondering how she would get back to the US on time for work on Monday.

"The Dublin Airport Authority is pretty well organised, it's just slow because there are so many people affected.

"I don't think I'll get to Phoenix this weekend. All the late flights are getting cancelled so I'm not confident we'll get out tonight at all . . . I could be here for a week," she added.

Another passenger who was on the 10.20am Aer Lingus flight to Nice told how he managed to board the aircraft at 1pm which then sat on the tarmac for another three hours.

"The pilot told us the de-icing procedure on our plane had not been successful so they had to do it all over again and we had to wait even longer," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Airport Authority said snow and ice crews were working throughout the night of New Year's Eve and into the morning of New Year's Day in an effort to keep the taxiways and aprons clear.

Flights resumed at 10.30am, though there were lengthy knock-on delays.

"Ground temperatures are very low and we have to carry out friction testing on the runways and taxiways.

"Airlines are reporting lighter loads than usual because of the day that's in it, and some airlines have later starting times today so that's helping," she added.

Irish Independent

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