An Irishman has told how his post-pandemic journey home to visit family became an ordeal after his Aer Lingus flight back to London was canceled not once but twice, while his eventual flight home was beset by 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 fly back to the UK on July 2nd.
“Two days earlier, Aer Lingus canceled our flight and reassigned me to a flight on Monday 4th July,” said Ronan.
“Due to being unable to fly on a weekday (due to work commitments), I had to reschedule my flight a week later to Saturday 9th July.”
Meanwhile, Sabrina took another flight later this week as she was due to sit an exam in London, where the couple lives and works.
IT staff Ronan stayed in Ireland and worked remotely last week. However, his flight on Saturday 9 July from Knock Airport was again canceled and he was rescheduled to a flight due to depart yesterday.
He arrived at the airport, where he sped through security without delay, looking forward to finally getting home. But more problems came.
“I boarded my plane as usual, but as we approached the runway, the plane suddenly stopped and a flight attendant fell and was injured,” Ronan said.
“After 30 or 40 minutes we (the passengers) were told we had three options – get off the flight and stay in a paying hotel and fly again tomorrow, catch a bus to Shannon and head for Heathrow instead of Gatwick fly later in the evening, or stay on the plane and be flown to Dublin to refuel and get a backup stewardess so we can continue on to Gatwick.”
Ronan and around 50 other passengers chose to remain on the plane, he said.
However, he did not see what came next.
“We spent about an hour and 50 minutes stuffed on the plane,” he said.
“The only thing we were offered was a glass of water from a one-liter bottle poured into a plastic cup.”
Temperatures reached 20-21°C at Knock Airport yesterday.
Ronan claimed passengers were offered the cup of water after “at least an hour”. And he claimed this was “only after people had asked for water and then finally the crew came and offered ‘the water’ just before leaving for Dublin”.
Ronan said passengers waited another 35 to 40 minutes on the Dublin airport tarmac for a new crew to board.
“It’s been a long week as the flight was originally scheduled for last Saturday,” said Ronan.
“We have tried to avoid flying home as much as possible (during the pandemic),” he added.
“We wanted to avoid putting the family at risk of Covid so we have restricted travel as much as possible.
“It has been a disaster that so many Irish people are finally being given the opportunity to return home, but the airlines have been unable to accommodate their usual flight schedules.”
When Ronan landed at Gatwick at 6pm yesterday he spoke to the Irish Independent again, saying, “No normal complimentary delay snacks were provided on board as it appeared they did not arrive on time and they (staff) did not want to delay further.”
He said passengers were offered a “random bar/snack” and claims half the plane was offered tea or coffee, but “they didn’t have time for the rest and we were given water again – half a glass”.
A spokesman for Aer Lingus said: “Flight EI 912 from Knock to Gatwick was due to depart at 1pm today Sunday 10 July with 162 passengers.
“On departure, a minor incident occurred where a member of the cabin crew was later unable to perform his duties.
“Two passengers were diverted to London Heathrow via Shannon and 11 passengers opted for a next available flight on Monday 11 July.
“The remaining 149 passengers remained on board the aircraft, which was diverted to Dublin, departing Knock at 2.36pm and arriving in Dublin at 3.16pm.
“A replacement crew operated the Dublin to Gatwick flight, which departed Dublin at 17.02 and landed at Gatwick at 17.57.
“Aer Lingus would like to sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused to passengers.”