Holidaymakers' flight from hell

Sinead Kelleher

Furious Kerry passengers left stranded by Aer Lingus in Lanzarote at the weekend said the airline treated them with "complete disrespect."

Some passengers who faced a night in the airport terminal because there was no available accommodation nearby were even told to try and make their way home to Kerry via Moscow.

Eventually some of the frustrated passengers resorted to contacting Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae in a desperate effort to get home.

Passengers from Kenmare, Dingle and Tralee were among hundreds of passengers who spent hours in Lanzarote Airport after their flight, E1877, which was due to leave at 6pm on Saturday failed to depart forcing them to remain on the holiday island until Monday afternoon.

The incoming flight was unable to land in Lanzarote and instead diverted to Fuerteventura due to what was claimed to be high winds.

It was later stated that the flight could not then return to Cork because the crew were over their working hours limit.

Kerry passengers on this flight were also left stranded in Fuerteventura even though they had intended to go to Lanzarote.

They eventually made it by boat to their destination the following day.

Denis O'Connor and his wife, Aine, from Ballyhea in Dingle, were among the stranded passengers who were forced to contact their local TD.

"We were so frustrated that we rang our TDs. People were in dire straits. We were told nothing on the ground and they even threatened to remove us by force as we didn't want to leave the airport.," said Denis.

"They treated us with total disrespect. They told us to rebook our own flights and there was none and to get our own accommodation and people couldn't do that. They said to get flights to Moscow or Manchester. There were cancer patients and parents with children all stranded," he added.

The passengers' ordeal began on Saturday evening at 8pm when they began queuing at the departure gate - having been delayed since 6pm.

At 10.30pm they were told their flight had been cancelled and that they should go to the information desk.

Some passengers opted to leave the airport but a group of around 60 remained and stayed in the airport for the entire night.

"There were people with young children, with medical conditions and elderly. They gave us 10 blankets between all of us and a food voucher and would not tell us what was going on," claimed passenger Donna Harrington from Kenmare who was stuck at the airport with her mother Christine and friend Frances O'Sullivan.

"The information we were getting is that the next Flight would be Thursday. They said high winds first but there were other planes in and out. It was nothing to do with the snow as Cork was open and then they said that staff had gone over hours and couldn't work so the plane flew home empty," said Donna.

Donna was forced to rebook flights home to Cork via London in order to make it home.

Her mother remained in Lanzarote and eventually made it home late on Monday evening

She had been forced to travel to Dublin and was bused home to Kerry from there.

Donna says that Aer Lingus treated passengers with "complete disrespect."

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said that he received a call at 6am from stranded passengers and he began immediately to try and help them.

Eventually he called Transport Minister, Shane Ross, to intervene and a charter plane was arranged to bring the stranded passengers home on Monday.

"They had to endure the holiday from hell. The worst thing was that those contracted to work for Aer Lingus were not helpful and no information was given to the passengers who didn't know what to do," said Deputy Healy-Rae.

"I might not agree with Minister Ross on everything but I thank him for intervening here," Deputy Healy-Rae said.

As The Kerryman went to press Aer Lingus had not responded to a request for comment.