Tuesday 20 March 2018

Waiting passengers pray for a yuletide miracle

Nicola Anderson

HOME for Christmas. It was the only thought on everyone's mind and the only prayer on their lips as something of a yuletide miracle began to unfold.

Blue skies over Dublin Airport yesterday morning brought hope -- and steely resolve -- for the tens of thousands of stranded passengers tearfully pondering the prospect of spending the festive period away from home and their families.

With the runway open at 7.15am for the first time since lunchtime the previous day and extra, larger aircraft made available by many airlines, things slowly began to get back to normal at the airport as efforts were made to clear the backlog.

But for some, it was too late. One young Polish woman wept bitterly as the realisation crept in that she would not be taking her three-month-old baby home for Christmas to meet her family for the first time, as planned. There was no availability on any flight until December 28.

But for those not travelling with young children and up for a challenge, it was time to get creative. If they could not board a direct flight to their home country, they were willing to take their chances on getting home, whatever the route and however long it took them.

One Polish man was planning a three-day epic circuitous route, with the first leg from Dublin to London yesterday, on to Oslo today and finally hoping to reach home tomorrow.

Rocio Fernandez (21) and Cristina Simo (19), au pairs hoping to travel home to Barcelona, said they were likely to be travelling to East Midlands Airport in the UK but were worried because of the weather there.

Upstairs in the food court, tables full of exhausted passengers slumped over their coffee cups told of the ordeal they were still enduring on stand-by status.

Simone Schiffer (20) and her five friends, all students from Dusseldorf in Germany, had been booked on to three separate flights to various destinations in Germany but each one had been cancelled because of the weather.

They had spent two nights sleeping on the airport floor. "Well actually we didn't sleep. It was so bright and so noisy and very cold," said Simone. "Also the food is so expensive that we just ate from the fast food places and now we don't feel so well," she added.

Downstairs in the arrivals hall, the glad smiles of the heroic voyagers who had managed to make it home were a joy to behold.

Ross and Katja Thornblad-Anderson, from Sweden, were amazed at their good fortune by being delayed by a mere two hours from Copenhagen.

In departures, however, the ordeal continued as cordoned-off queues at the Ryanair and Aer Lingus ticket desks snaked across the floor.

Monica Ghosh from Paris had tears in her eyes as she told how she did not know if she would get home at all. "There is no Ryanair flight until the 28th -- I am so stressed and angry," she said.

Meanwhile, anyone who stepped through a modest door from departures into Terminal 2 would have experienced the real miracle.

A shiny wonderland with a tranquil atmosphere and a "new-car" smell, containing a maximum of 10 intending passengers, empty restaurants and no end of comfortable seating.

They might have been forgiven for muttering "only in Ireland".

Irish Independent

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