A family whose flight to Portugal was cancelled at the last minute over the weekend, said they will avoid flying again this year.
Wayne and Aoife Comerford travelled from their home in Greystones, Co Wicklow, to Dublin Airport yesterday for a 7pm flight to Faro, Portugal.
Wayne and Aoife, and their three children Ailbhe (11), Killian (9) and Freya (5), arrived in Terminal 2 at 3pm and joined the Aer Lingus bag drop queue.
Aoife said she was “nervous” about travelling through the airport given how busy it has been recently, but the family were “so excited” for their first holiday in three years.
"We were in the airport at 3pm for our 7pm flight and when we got to the bag drop, it came up saying we were too late for the flight.
"When we called over one of the people from Aer Lingus, they said our flight was likely to be on a list of cancelled flights and that if we joined a queue of people waiting to hear if their flights have been cancelled, they would come and tell us,” she said.
One hour later the Comerfords were informed via a text message that their flight was cancelled.
"There was a mad panic then to see where you were going to get your flight sorted,” Aoife said.
“There was a huge queue for ticket sales, which is the queue you’re supposed to join to rebook, which was the whole length of Terminal 2. At that stage, with very upset children, we decided not to join that, and we decided to come home and apply for a refund ourselves for our flight.”
Wayne and Aoife paid €6,000 for their 10-day package holiday and this morning they applied for a refund and began looking for alternative holiday options.
The couple were due to holiday near Albufeira, which Wayne described as his “favourite place”, but Portugal is no longer a “on the cards” for this year.
Instead, and pending a refund from their travel insurance, the couple said they hope to take a trip to France, but they will only take a ferry.
"The kids were crazy when we said there was no holiday, so we felt we had to do something,” Wayne said.
"Flights are not an option. Not after that experience. We heard that it was going to be a crazy weekend, even today. So, we said if we book another flight, confidence isn’t there.
“We’ve been waiting for three years. I mean days were spent researching it. The excitement was building up for the kids. Getting summer clothes and the excitement for everybody and to be in the airport and have it ripped away was the hardest part,” Aoife said.
"I’d be afraid that it’s going to happen again. That we’d travel to Dublin Airport, only for the flight to be cancelled. I just couldn’t put the kids through that stress again of getting to the airport and not getting on the plane.”
Aoife added: “There isn’t a huge amount of enjoyment at the airport that there used to be. That used to be part of the fun of going on holiday, that when you got to the airport the excitement began.
“That stress level is increasing. I was very anxious about the whole experience, especially with three small kids that if we were going to be queuing for two hours getting through security, that it was going to be very stressful – which is another reason why we’re not going through it again.”
The 7pm flight to Faro, which the Comerfords were due to take, was one of several Aer Lingus flights which were cancelled yesterday, with the airline citing a Covid surge among staff and air traffic control strikes in France, Italy and Spain, as the reason why “buffers” failed.
A flight to Split in Croatia, along with arrivals from London Heathrow and Amsterdam were also cancelled yesterday.
Independent.ie contacted Aer Lingus and received a statement detailing how Covid cases had affected staffing, along with the air traffic control strikes (ATC), which Ryanair had already stated it expected would impact flights.
“Aer Lingus anticipated the return of demand for travel once Covid restrictions were removed and built appropriate buffers into our plans in order to deal with a reasonable level of additional disruption.
"This weekend, system pressures from ATC strikes, and ongoing issues at airports and among third party suppliers have regrettably necessitated the cancellation of some flights.
“This pressure on the system has been compounded by a spike in Covid cases among our own teams in the last number of days. Where cancellations have occurred, Aer Lingus has sought to re-accommodate disrupted passengers on the next available alternative service.
"Aer Lingus wishes to apologise to those customers that have been impacted, and has shared details regarding customers’ rights and the airlines’ obligations under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 which can be found here: www.aerlingus.com/support/legal/regulation.”
Meanwhile, several further flights to and from Dublin Airport have been cancelled today, including two Aer Lingus flights to Brussels and Amsterdam.
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This week has seen more long lines for airport passengers, and Aer Lingus alone has cancelled around 40 flights due to strikes, staff shortages and “a significant spike in Covid cases” among staff.