Air travellers stranded as snow and freezing weather halts flights

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Travellers have faced ongoing chaos on Sunday through to Monday as large parts of the UK were hit by snow and the temperatures across the country plummeted.

Those hoping to fly have detailed being told to “basically go away” by airlines as people slept in the airport and others scrambled to find hotels for the night – including James McCall, a 50-year-old from Dorset who will forfeit thousands after cancelled flights from Edinburgh to Gatwick have meant his cheese company cannot make it to a Christmas market at the busiest time of the year for his business.

“(We are) frustrated and tired. We just want to get home,” Mr McCall told the PA news agency.

James and Kelly McCall have been impacted by the travel chaos thanks to freezing conditions in the UK (James McCall/PA)

“I’m due at a Christmas market today which I’ve had to pull out of at the busiest time of year… (That’s) probably £2,000.

“My wife is a teacher and it was her nativity play today. She’s director and apparently it will be a disaster without her.”

Mr McCall, his wife, Kelly, and two others have children at home they cannot get to after being in Edinburgh for a family wedding.

They were meant to fly on the 1910 flight with EasyJet on Sunday but kept getting pushed onto later flights due to snow at Gatwick before the airline’s app crashed and they were encouraged to find a hotel.

“We managed to find a hotel overnight, others were staying at the airport,” Mr McCall explained.

“EasyJet provided zero help to anyone – we were basically told to go away.

“Shocking way to treat people.”

Mr McCall and his wife hope their flight on Monday evening will take off as planned.

Winter weather Dec 12th 2022
Temperatures have plummeted across the country (Victoria Jones/PA)

When the second flight they had managed to book onto was also cancelled, the pair were told to find a hotel without their luggage being returned to them.

“We tried to get our bags and had conflicting advice from airport staff which sent us in different directions and ultimately we waited in a huge line at baggage reclaim only to hear an announcement telling us that there is nothing they can do to return baggage and can we all please leave the airport,” Ms Workman, a 57-year-old real estate broker from Pound Ridge, New York, told PA.

“So with only the clothes on our backs, without toiletries, a hairbrush or makeup we headed to our grim airport hotel.

“We submitted an ancient looking paper form… Then we joined another mile-long queue to try and rebook or find a standby ticket to Dublin.

“We eventually made it to the sole agent handing standby tickets and we have now joined a ‘back room’ queue where agents are supposedly working behind the scenes to rebook people.

“We’ve been told we are #86 in the queue in the mysterious backroom… We’ve been given a £10 voucher for a coffee and a sandwich where we will await news of our fate.”

Ms Workman and her husband planned to visit family in Ireland before heading home to New York on Saturday.

“Over an hour after we joined the back room queue we have moved up only one spot to #85 and the estimated wait time is 7 hours,” she said.

A pilot at Luton Airport, who did not want to be named, explained that the plane he was supposed to fly to Romania was stuck waiting to taxi since Sunday night until passengers and crew finally disembarked at 1am on Monday.

“We were stuck since last night,” he said.

“(We) actually had to call it for a day as we have reached max working duty time so we will be sent to our base as deadhead crew.

“First (we were stuck) for a couple of hours, then the domino effect started and everything got stuck… Passengers were disembarked but it took some time before the staff at luton brought the stairs, an hour at least.

“I would say given the situation, Luton handled this quite well.”

A rescheduled flight will leave “with delay,” he added.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the disruption for our customers, notifying them directly of their options including a free transfer to an alternative flight or a refund as well as providing overnight hotel accommodation and meals and are advising any customers who source their own that they will be reimbursed.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority and while this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused as a result of the weather.”

In a statement, British Airways said: “Like all airlines operating to or from London, our schedule has been affected by continuing adverse winter weather conditions.”

“We’ve apologised to our customers and are doing everything we can to ensure as many are able to travel as possible.

“We’re refunding or rebooking anyone whose flight has been cancelled and providing refreshment vouchers and hotel accommodation where needed.”

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