Family with autistic child told easyJet flight is cancelled after waiting for two hours on runway

Exclusive: Budget airline claims it has offered a suitable replacement flight - from Gatwick Airport, 240 miles away

<p>Nicola and family in happier times </p>

Nicola and family in happier times

A mother of an autistic child says her family was forced to wait for two hours after boarding an easyJet flight yesterday - only to be told their flight was cancelled.

Nicola Caine, along with her husband, son and daughter, was booked onto easyJet flight U21903 on Monday, scheduled to depart from Manchester for Tenerife at 5.10pm.

She told The Independent: “We received information from the easyJet app in the morning that the flight was delayed until 6.10pm.

“We arrived at the airport at 2pm but had no problems with check in or security.”

Shortly after 6pm, Ms Caine says the family was told to go to the gate and boarded the plane. However, once on board, the waiting game began.

“We were informed by the captain there had been a delay with the flight due to problems over German airspace and there had also been an issue with baggage, so we would be delayed by a further 10 minutes,” she says.

“Half an hour later, we were still waiting and informed there was an issue with having too many bags checked in.

“Almost an hour and a half later we were informed by the captain that due to delays the staff were outside their working hours so the flight was now cancelled,” she added.

Ms Caine says that passengers were then kept on the aircraft for 40 minutes, taking the time spent waiting onboard to over two hours.

She claims they were told to rearrange their flights on the easyJet app, but struggled to do so as the app kept crashing.

“My 12-year-old son is autistic and the initial wait on the plane was difficult enough for him but hearing the flight had been cancelled caused a huge meltdown,” shesays.

“He was crying and kept asking when were going to Tenerife. The staff on board were great with him and let him go in the cockpit to try and calm him down, but - after 12 months of us preparing him for the holiday - he was absolutely heartbroken at the last-minute change.”

After sitting on the plane for 40 minutes after the cancellation announcement, the family was told to go back through border control.

“Once off the plane we were told there would be an easyJet representative on level five,” says Ms Caine, “but there were no representatives in the airport.

“We were stuck in the terminal with only two Manchester Airport staff who handed out flyers with how to download the easyJet app and again told to go through the app.”

“We had waited two years for this holiday, so to be treated in this way after our flight had been cancelled is disgusting,” she adds.

“No accommodation was offered, no information about rebooking flights, the terminal was chaos with no one knowing what to do.”

The family returned home “with two distraught children” on Monday night, and shortly before 6am on Tuesday, easyJet emailed to say they had been rebooked on an alternative flight for that evening - from Gatwick Airport, 240 miles away.

The airline told passengers to get themselves back to Manchester Airport for 10.30am, where it would put on a coach service to Gatwick.

“I contacted easyjet to explain the difficult situation we faced, travelling on a coach for approximately four hours, waiting at the airport, then a flight for four-and-a-half hours with our autistic son,” says Ms Caine.

“I was told there are no other Manchester flights to Tenerife for a week. EasyJet said we could book our own flights with another airline but would have to claim money back off our travel insurance as they have offered a suitable alternative.”

She argues that the alternative was not suitable since it involved more than four and a half hours’ additional journey time than the original flight booked.

In addition, the family also has to pay for a second PCR test for son Oliver, 12, as the test period would have expired by the time they arrived in Tenerife, part of Spain’s Canary Islands.

Unvaccinated and partly vaccinated visitors aged 12 and upwards must show a negative PCR test result from within the past 72 hours, or an antigen test result from the past 24 hours, to gain entry to Spain.

To make matter worse, says Ms Caine, the Manchester to Gatwick coach was half an hour late, with passengers standing outside in the rain. They also weren’t met by an easyJet representative.

“The stress this whole situation has caused for the whole of our family is completely unnecessary,” she says.

“EasyJet have not tried to help any of its customers other than to send an email with new flights. I am completely disgusted at the way they have handled the whole situation and now dread what will happen at Gatwick as we have already been informed our flight is delayed by over an hour.”

An easyJet spokesperson told The Independent: “Unfortunately we were unable to operate the EZY1903 from Manchester to Tenerife yesterday due to air traffic control restrictions earlier in the day leading to the crew reaching their maximum operating hours.

“We are very sorry for this late cancellation. We always aim to minimise the impact on our customers, providing them with the options to transfer to an alternative flight free of charge, or receive a refund or a voucher.

“Our customer team will be in touch with the family to talk them through their options.”

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