A family fear they could lose £4,000 after they got a text message as they stood at the departure gate telling them their holiday had been cancelled. Steven Hession was supposed fly to Kos on Saturday with wife, Kerrie, and their two children for a family wedding.
But after hours of delays the family got to the departure gate only to get a text message from airline TUI informing them that their flight and holiday had been cancelled due to ‘significant operational disruption’. The dad of two told LancsLive they left home at around 11am and arrived at the airport half an hour later for the 3.25pm flight with TUI but were greeted by long delays and queues stretching from one terminal to another.
They have now managed to book new flights – although the family will have to go from two different airports – and the fact they are getting themselves to Kos may mean they lose out on the compensation, as well as bearing the extra costs.
Steven said: “We were flying over to Kos along with around 40 other people because my wife’s brother, who is also from Blackburn, is due to get married, so we were all flying over from different parts of the UK. It was horrendous; even on arrival at check in at Terminal 2, the queues were stretching right back to Terminal 1.
“After many hours of delays, we were at the boarding gate just after 7pm and there was no staff on there, but then we saw the cabin crew walking through to the plane, which made us feel reassured. But then we heard people crying… and everyone got this text at the same time saying ‘unfortunately, your holiday has been cancelled, click this link to get a refund within 14 days’.”
He claims no one from the company came to face the passengers, with the police at the airport speaking to them instead. He said: “We were stranded at the arrivals at Manchester Airport, as they could not bring us back through arrivals, and they could not let us go through departures because we had not left, so they had to escort us out.”
He added: “When we got to the barrage carousel, there was no one there and we didn’t know where our luggage was. Then they said the bags would come out at number eight, and it turned out to be number two, so everyone ran across the airport. You could see people’s luggage left from the night before – it was a guessing game as to the flights, and the cases.”
Friends turned up in the middle of the night to take the family back to Blackburn, meaning that they arrived back home just after midnight, almost 13 hours after they had left home.
Steven is now due to fly from Newcastle on Wednesday and his wife and children from Leeds Bradford Airport, at considerable extra cost.
But he says questions hang over their accommodation when they get there, and that if they do manage to find some, they could lose their refund. He added: “Now that we have got the flights, it’s a gamble because our hotel is full as it’s half term… the TUI representative is telling people that if they turn up that means your holiday’s valid so you might not get a refund.
“The holiday itself was four grand, and I’ve spent a grand on new flights, and around £200 on minibuses for them. If we get to the hotel, it could be that they have accommodation and look after us, and pay for the extra cost, or it could work out another three or four grand.”
He added: “It was a nightmare at the airport, with scenes of bedlam and huge queues., and now the nightmare is not over. Fortunately, we do have family and friends out there, so if there are any issues on arrival, whilst not ideal it should be okay for one night, then it’s a case of credit card and booking website. It’s not great for the mental health, after packing and all the excitement, then being sent home…if it was not for the wedding, we would have booked a UK holiday so the kids can make the most out of half term.”
A spokesperson for Tui said: “We would like to apologise to some of our customers who have experienced flight delays in recent days. The May half-term holidays are always an incredibly busy period with many customers looking to get away, and this year is no different. We understand that many of our customers have been looking forward to these holidays, as it’s the first peak period in more than two years that hasn’t been impacted by border closures and mass testing requirements. Our priority is always to take customers on holiday safely.
“While flight delays and cancellations with us are rare, unfortunately the sudden increase in people going on holidays combined with various operational and supply chain issues, has meant that a small number of our flights have been impacted. Our teams have been working tirelessly to support affected customers, through direct communications and providing overnight accommodation and transfers where needed, as well as meals and refreshments.
A screengrab of the text message received by Blackburn mum Kerrie Hession from holiday company Tui at the departure gate at Manchester airport
“As the UK’s biggest holiday company, we take millions of customers on holiday every year, and the majority of our flights are taking off as planned. Our flying programme today is not impacted by cancellations. We continue to work closely with our airport partners to monitor the situation and provide the best possible holiday experience for our customers. We’d like to thank them for their patience and understanding at this time.”
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “We are aware of challenges being faced by a number of airlines and handling agents, which is leading to delays at check-in and baggage reclaim for some passengers. Airlines and their ground handlers are responsible for their own check-in and baggage handling services. Passengers are advised to direct any questions or concerns about these issues, or anything relating to their flight, to their airline, who will be best placed to respond.
“However, this is not the experience we want passengers to have at Manchester Airport and we are sorry to hear customers have faced disruption. We are in contact with the senior management teams of the relevant airlines and ground handlers to understand the cause of these issues, and to support their efforts to resolve them as quickly as possible.
“Our colleagues are on hand in the terminal to provide assistance to customers and we are working hard to ensure security waiting times are as quick as possible. It remains our advice that passengers should arrive three hours before their flight and to be as prepared as they can be for their journey through the airport.”