A family are terrified they’ll be left £4,000 out of pocket after a “nightmare” at Manchester Airport where their holiday was cancelled at the departure gate.
Steven Hession, 45, his wife Kerrie and two children were supposed to fly to Kos on Saturday for two weeks for a family wedding.
After hours of delays and airport chaos as fellow passengers saw flights cancelled and waits of up to eight hours for luggage the family received a text message from airline TUI.
They were told their flight and holiday had been cancelled due to “significant operational disruption”.
The dad-of-two clams they left home at 11am and arrives at the airport 30 minutes later for their 3.25pm flight with TUI.
They faced long queues stretching from one terminal to the other, but eventually made it to the gate.
However, four hours later than their flight was supposed to leave the family was sent a text at the departure gate telling them their holiday had been scrapped.
The text stated that a refund voucher was available as well as compensation and that a full refund of the total cost of the booking will be made within 14 days.
Steven, who works for British Gas, told LancsLive : “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 to 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 one 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."
Steven noted that nobody from TUI came to speak to the passengers and instead policemen spoke to them.
However, as the passengers were at the departure gate – in between departures and arrivals – they were unable to leave the airport for hours.
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.” Eventually, they were escorted out, and had to go back through security checks, before facing another chaotic scene to get their luggage back.
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.”
Steven and Kerrie had to ask friends to drive them back to Blackburn and they arrived home at midnight 13 hours after they left for their two week holiday.
Fortunately, the bride and groom managed to fly out to Kos on Sunday, and Steven booked new flights for himself and his family in time for the wedding. He is due to fly from Newcastle on Wednesday and his wife and children from Leeds Bradford Airport, at considerable extra cost.
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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.
"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."
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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.”
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