Passengers hit out over airport delays

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The Independent Travel

Disgruntled passengers at Manchester Airport today complained of a lack of information as they tried to reach their destinations in the wake of severe weather.

Queues snaked halfway down the Terminal 2 building as several hundred people attempted to get onto alternative flights after a spate of cancellations due to heavy snow and ice.

One angry woman confronted the airport's managing director about her lengthy wait to visit her son in the Philippines.

Bridget Fogg, 50, of Bolton, told airport chief Andrew Cornish that she had been in the queue at the KLM ticket desk since 4am and had still not reached the front in nearly seven hours.

She pleaded to him: "We have hardly moved in that queue. There is one person sitting on the desk. Why can't someone lend them a body to help people book their flights? It's very simple to book holidays on a computer."

Mr Cornish replied: "I apologise on their behalf. If I have to sit behind the desk I will."

Extra staff were soon provided at the Air France and KLM desk to provide hope for the weary travellers.

Mrs Fogg and husband Gary, 54, were due to fly to Amsterdam yesterday en route to Manila and then Borocay Island, where their son Sam is working.

"We had a two-hour delay yesterday before we finally boarded, but then we were held on the runway for five and a half hours before we were told the flight was cancelled," she complained.

"I can understand the problems with the weather, but not this. We were given an ambiguous letter telling us to contact your travel agent, but we couldn't get through to them so we joined this queue."

Mr Cornish told reporters: "It is clearly not a desirable situation. The vast majority of people are getting away. There are long delays but that is for the minority of people.

"The weather was beyond our control. It is an unusual set of circumstances when the whole of Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States is also affected by snow.

"We are trying to give all the information we can. You can never give enough information.

"I understand why people are not happy. We will do the best we can and get people away as quickly as possible."

An airport spokeswoman added they were experiencing "knock-on effects" from yesterday's poor weather conditions but Runway 1 had been operating as normal since 11pm last night.

She said: "The safety of our passengers is our main priority and our staff are working incredibly hard to clear the ice and snow from our 750-hectare site.

"We are urging our passengers to check with their airline before they travel to the airport as bad weather in Europe and USA means some airlines have cancelled flights."

Peter Davies, 60, and wife, Lorraine, 58, from Stockton-on-Tees, were nervously waiting to see if they could secure a standby ticket after the cancellation of their flight to New Jersey yesterday.

The couple had a bag packed with Christmas presents for their two-year-old twin grandchildren who live in the United States with their son and daughter-in-law.

Mr Davies said: "We are very upset. It is a pretty trying time and it's disappointing but there's not much you can do about it.

"We visit a couple of times a year but obviously it's a special time around now and we've got the presents ready.

"We sorted ourselves out in a hotel last night but we're going home if we can't get another flight sorted today. I can't afford to lose the time off work so we'll go in the New Year."

The Davieses looked to be in luck later as they rushed to a check-in desk and said: "I think we're OK."

Anne Park, 81, of Lancaster, was not so fortunate as she said her bmibaby flight to Amsterdam was cancelled yesterday and there were no scheduled flights today.

"I'm tired out. I feel abandoned because there has been no information," she said. "It's a disgrace."

Mrs Park was planning to spend a month with her daughter who lives in the Dutch capital.

She faces spending another night in a hotel as she hopes to fly out tomorrow or even Wednesday. Her only other alternative was to take her chances in the lengthy reticketing queue at the KLM desk.

"I don't fancy my chances there," she said, pointing. "One girl has been sat over there in the same position for hours."

David Kind, 61, of Keighley, was in the Air France check-in queue at 7am today when a passenger in front of him received a text message saying their flight to Dubai was cancelled.

He said: "No-one told us anything on the desk, we had to find out by someone's else phone as we stood waiting."

His daughter stood waiting patiently in the reticketing queue as his son-in-law tried to organise an alternative flight online with a quote which would cost them several hundred pounds more than their original booking.

"We're booked in for seven nights so we can't afford to lose much time," Mr Kind added.