An Irishman has told how his trip home to visit family after the pandemic turned into an ordeal after his Aer Lingus flight to London was canceled not once, but twice, while his possible flight from return has been plagued with delays.
In the end, Ronan Sweeney (25), from Galway, spent an extra week in Ireland working remotely and only returned to the UK yesterday.
He and his girlfriend, Sabrina Regan (24), from Roscommon, were due to return to the UK on July 2.
“Two days before, Aer Lingus canceled our flight and transferred me to a flight on Monday July 4,” Ronan said.
“Unable to fly on a weekday (due to work commitments) I had to reschedule my flight a week later on Saturday 9th July.”
Meanwhile, Sabrina took a different flight later in the week as she had to take an exam in London, where the couple live and work.
IT specialist Ronan remained in Ireland and worked remotely for the past week. However, his Saturday July 9 flight from Knock Airport was again canceled and he was transferred to a flight due to depart yesterday.
He arrived at the airport where he went through security without delay and was eager to finally get home. But there were more problems to come.
“I boarded my flight as usual, but as we approached the runway, there was a sudden stop in the plane and a stewardess fell and injured herself,” Ronan said.
“After 30 or 40 minutes we (the passengers) were told we had three options – leave the flight and stay in a paying hotel and fly again tomorrow, board a bus to Shannon and fly to Heathrow, instead of Gatwick, later that evening, or to stay on the plane and fly to Dublin to refuel and find a replacement stewardess so we can continue to Gatwick.
Ronan and about 50 other passengers opted to stay on the plane, he said.
However, he did not see what was to follow.
“We spent about an hour and 50 minutes crammed into the plane,” he said.
“The only thing we were offered was a glass of water from a liter bottle, poured into a plastic cup.”
Temperatures reached 20C-21C at Knock Airport yesterday.
Ronan claimed passengers were offered the cup of water after “at least an hour”. And he claimed it was ‘only after people asked for water and then finally the crew came and offered ‘the water’ just before we left for Dublin.
Ronan said passengers waited another 35-40 minutes on the tarmac at Dublin Airport until a new crew boarded.
“It’s been a long week, as it was originally scheduled to take off last Saturday,” Ronan said.
“We have tried to avoid going home as much as possible (during the pandemic),” he added.
“We wanted to avoid putting the family at risk from Covid, so we limited travel as much as possible.
“It is a disaster that so many Irish people finally have the opportunity to return home, but the airlines have been unable to facilitate their usual flight times.”
When Ronan landed at 6 p.m. yesterday at Gatwick, he spoke to the Irish Independent again and said: “Normal free late snacks were not provided on board as apparently they did not arrive on time and they (staff) did not want to delay any longer.”
He said passengers were offered a “random bar/snack” and said half the plane was offered tea or coffee but “they didn’t have time for the rest and we were again given water – half a glass”.
An Aer Lingus spokesperson said: “Flight EI 912 from Knock to Gatwick today, Sunday July 10, was due to take off at 1pm, with 162 passengers.
“Initially, a minor incident occurred with one cabin crew member subsequently unable to perform their duties.
“Two passengers have been re-routed via Shannon to London Heathrow and 11 passengers have opted for a next available flight on Monday July 11.
“The remaining 149 passengers remained on board the aircraft which re-routed to Dublin, departed Knock at 2.36pm and landed in Dublin at 3.16pm.
“A replacement crew operated the Dublin-Gatwick flight which departed Dublin at 5.02pm and landed at Gatwick at 5.57pm.
“Aer Lingus would like to sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused to passengers.”