'Not enough staff and not enough information'

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The Independent Online

It wasn't quite the madness of Gatwick, where a screaming woman in a Santa hat – enraged by being stranded – had to be dragged off by police. But the scene at Luton Airport yesterday was devoid of the festive cheer one might usually hope for. As easyJet cancelled all flights, many families in the departures hall seemed to have passed the tension tipping point usually reserved for that moment on Christmas Day (about noon) when mum realises dad has already started on the brandy.

Anne Wutke, 39, a German national living in Plymouth, had unwittingly embarked on an epic saga in her attempt to return home to Berlin for Christmas. She and her partner had been booked to catch a 6pm easyJet flight from Bristol to Berlin on Monday evening but it was cancelled.

EasyJet officials told her that the only available flight to Berlin was from Luton the following day so she hired a car to drive east. After four hours stuck in a snow storm on the M4 she made it to Luton only to be told that their flight that evening had also been cancelled. "Now today they're saying that they will reimburse some flights but it's too late," she said. "There seems to be no contingency planning. We've had enough. We're just going to go home."

Kim Newsom, 50, a housewife from Essex, suffers from a serious bowel condition that means she has to be on a drip overnight – but she had to endure an eight-and-a-half-hour coach trip to Edinburgh yesterday evening after her easyJet flight from Luton to Aberdeen was cancelled twice. "They wouldn't even pay for a taxi from Edinburgh to Aberdeen," she complained. "I just hope I will be able to get back for a major operation I'm having in the new year."

Mary Cunning, an Oxford librarian, summed up the thoughts of many as she struggled to fly to Belfast: "There's not enough information and there's not enough staff." She added: "All we got was an email saying our flight might be cancelled. We are trying to see my husband's mother who is in very poor health. We haven't seen her for a year."

Passengers bickered over who would sleep on benches.

One couple, Jerome Sauvage and Maria Veracruz, proved the exception, swinging lazily from a hammock they erected in the arrivals hall – a remnant from their four-month trip around Asia. They had been due to return home to Murcia, Spain. Ms Veracruz conceded: "Compared with other people our night wasn't too bad."

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