By Jill O'Sullivan
Aer Lingus passengers say they are furious with the airline after their flight home was cancelled twice and they were left “stranded” for hours at Lanzarote Airport without vouchers for food or water.
Passengers who were due to travel from Lanzarote to Dublin last Sunday afternoon on the 12.30pm flight received a text the previous evening that the flight was cancelled for “technical reasons”. The text included an offer of a replacement flight at 8.15pm on Sunday.
However, that flight was also cancelled - this time only after the 320 passengers had boarded it - and so began a long night of frustration in the airport.
Margaret Fagan from Walkinstown in Dublin described what happened next.
“We’d all boarded the plane, already way past the 8.15pm flight time. At 10.10pm, the captain said the crew were out of working hours and couldn’t fly us home. He asked us to get off the plane. There was no other information,” she said.
Margaret had been so worried about missing the replacement flight that she’d made her husband John miss watching Sunday’s All Ireland final between Dublin and Mayo so that they could arrive early at the airport - a useless precaution, it turned out.
“No one showed us where to go (after the captain said the flight was cancelled), so we all just ended up back in the main hall of the airport, waiting for information. They (airport staff) just blanked us and spoke among themselves in Spanish,” she claimed.
“We asked for their supervisors, and they said they didn’t know where they were. We asked why we’d been boarded. They didn’t know.”
Margaret says no one from Aer Lingus made any appearance in the long night ahead. A single supervisor who was out of uniform was the passengers’ only point of contact and it was unclear whether he was an employee of Aer Lingus or their handling partner Aviapartner. Either way, Margaret says information and facilities were sorely lacking.
“There were elderly people, lots of people with kids and some people with health issues,” she said, adding people were becoming infuriated at the lack of information.
An Aer Lingus note tweeted by a fellow passenger shows Aer Lingus apologising for the cancellation of Sunday’s flight, and offering the Monday morning flight back to Dublin. That note also says: “Our handling agent Aviapartner will try to locate hotel accommodation for you and will provide you with information, updates and refreshments.”
After midnight, the supervisor said he would try to organise taxis for the families and elderly passengers, but when the taxis turned up, they would not accept the passengers as no taxi vouchers had been issued by Aer Lingus or their agents, Margaret said.
She added she and her husband John received no hotel vouchers and that she was not aware of any passengers that got them, so that even passengers who managed to get to hotels were turned away and had to return to the airport.
“One couple with a seven-year-old child had to come back to the airport at 1.30am. That child ended up sleeping on a small blow-up mattress the parents had, on the airport floor,” she said.
“There were lots of babies too - one family had a one-year-old. There weren’t enough chairs for all of us to lie down on, and my back is in bits since from spending all night on an airport chair.”
Margaret said it was 2.30am on Monday morning before €15 vouchers were issued for food and water, about eight hours after most passengers would have arrived in the airport to check in for the 8.15pm flight.
On boarding the 11am flight on Monday - which was itself an hour late taking off - passengers were offered another €15 voucher and on arrival in Dublin, Margaret says they were offered a €150 voucher. “I don’t know what that was for exactly - I was so fed up I didn’t even look at it,” she said.
"If they'd only been upfront with us and told us what was happening, people would have dealt with that - but we got no information at all as the night went on.
“I only ever use Aer Lingus for flights, but I feel like never travelling with them again. How can they get away with treating people like this? It’s disgusting."
In a statement that confirms the double cancellation, Aer Lingus said that flight EI777 from Lanzarote to Dublin on Sunday afternoon was cancelled due to a shortage of aircraft arising from a technical fault.
“Affected guests were notified by SMS and were rebooked on the evening flight on the same day, Sunday, September 17,” the statement says.
“Due to the late arrival of flight EI778 from Dublin to Lanzarote and the delayed boarding of the return flight from Lanzarote to Dublin, flight EI779 was subsequently cancelled as the flight crew had exceeded their flying hours.”
Aer Lingus said its ground-handling team at Lanzarote tried to provide affected guests with hotel accommodation “but it was unfortunately not possible to accommodate all guests at short notice”.
The airline said hotel accommodation was found for 50 guests, and said those who remained at Lanzarote airport were offered a food voucher.
The statement concludes: “All guests returned to Dublin on flight EI777 on Monday morning. Upon arrival into Dublin all affected guests were offered a voucher to the value of €150 as a gesture of good will. We sincerely apologise to guests affected by cancellation.”
Irish regulations state that if an airline cancels a flight with less than seven days notice, it has to offer passengers a choice between:
Where flights are cancelled after passengers have arrived for their flight, they must be offered refreshments, meals and hotel accommodation where an overnight stay is necessary, as well as transport to and from the hotel.
What a nightmare it's been getting home from lanzarote.@AerLingus really let us done big time, very disappointed at the service— Stefan o Hanrahan (@notafraidto) September 18, 2017
@AerLingus flight EI1779 Lanzarote , still no information for passengers, still not boarded and parents have no medication left— marie Thompson (@buddabelly28) September 18, 2017
Hi @AerLingus can you please tell us when EI1779 will depart from Lanzarote? Flight was scheduled to depart at 11. No boarding, no movement.— Tadhg O'Donovan (@Tadhgodonovan) September 18, 2017
400 passengers stranded in Lanzarote. Chaotic scenes from check-in all the way to boarding -shambles. No Aerlingus staff to assist. #chaos— Tadhg O'Donovan (@Tadhgodonovan) September 17, 2017
Aer lingus was embarrassing today in Lanzarote. Shabby is the best I can say. How to not treat families is what was done. #poor#shabby— Wayne Ryan (@raynewine) September 18, 2017
@AerLingus stuck sitting in lanzarote airport waiting on a "rep" to come talk to us!! No customer service.— Julie-Ann Keogh (@julieannkeogh) September 17, 2017