Wednesday 21 February 2018

'We were pretty much abandoned' - Irish volunteers on Lourdes trip had Ryanair flight cancelled at last-minute

Oblate Youth Service were stranded in France
Oblate Youth Service were stranded in France

Rebecca Lumley

A group of 80 Irish people were stranded in France last night, when their flight back to Dublin was unexpectedly cancelled by Ryanair.

The group had been on a mission to Lourdes with Oblate Youth Service when their 3:15pm flight back to Dublin was cancelled, though it was not included on the airline’s list of flight cancellations.

Fidelma Roe, whose son was a member of the group, told that the group was “pretty much abandoned.”

She said the group had been in contact with various media outlets because they were “desperate” to get home, and believes the extensive coverage surrounding the group’s situation is the reason they were accommodated on a flight back today.

According to Oblate Youth Service’s Facebook page, the group were told to make their own travel arrangements back to Ireland.

They said: “After a very challenging yet rewarding week caring for the sick and elderly in Lourdes, we were making our way home when our flight was cancelled by Ryanair.

"They have been extremely unhelpful and have only offered us 30 seats on a flight from Carcassonne on Tuesday and have told us to make our own travel arrangements which is next to impossible with 79 people which includes 45 17 and 18-year-olds.”

They added that they were “extremely disappointed with the complete lack of assistance and dismissiveness shown by Ryanair.”

Some members stated on Facebook that they had no access to food or water apart from a “single vending machine.”

Oblate Youth Service later posted that they had been accommodated in hotels close to the airport and had been notified of a flight home this morning.

A number of people in the group are believed to be Leaving Cert students.

In a statement, Ryanair said:

"This flight from Biarritz to Dublin (23 Sep) was regrettably cancelled after the inbound aircraft was unable to land at Biarritz Airport due to the closure of the runway. Customers were provided with refreshment vouchers and overnight accommodation and boarded a replacement flight this morning. Ryanair sincerely apologised to all customers affected by this cancellation, which was entirely beyond our control."

Up to 400,000 passengers will be affected by flight cancellations in the coming weeks, which will extend until the end of October.

The cancellations are due to pilot shortages and have spurred a week of controversy surrounding roster changes and staff complaints.

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