Ryanair strike: Holiday hell for tens of thousands as walkouts and storms leave them stranded

On one of the busiest weekends of the year, tens of thousands of airline passengers are still trying to complete their journeys after widespread flight cancellations.

Yesterday Ryanair had its worst-ever day of strikes, with an estimated 100 flights to and from the UK cancelled as pilots in five European countries took industrial action.

While the 18,000 passengers affected by the Ryanair strikes had at least 48 hours’ notice of the cancellations, many more were hit by sudden cancellations – particularly on easyJet and British Airways to Gatwick and Heathrow.

French kipping: one of the passengers stranded at Nice airport when a British Airways flight was delayed overnight (Adam Whitfield)

On Friday, many thunderstorms were spread across the northern Mediterranean from the Balearic islands to the coasts of southern France and northern Italy. As a result, easyJet cancelled around 30 flights, affecting about 5,000 people.

British Airways made many cancellations, mainly to and from Heathrow, and delayed about a dozen planes overnight in various locations.

One of the grounded flights was BA357 from Nice to Heathrow, which was delayed for three hours and eventually postponed overnight.

Airlines that cancel flights are required to provide hotels for passengers, and transport for them to get there. But BA booked rooms only for the pilots and cabin crew.

Passengers were instead given a letter saying that British Airways would pay up to £200 for a hotel room, and £50 for the return journey by taxi. 

In August even a three-star hotel on the French Riviera costs more than £200 per night.

Many passengers stayed at the airport, including Adam Whitfield, who tweeted: “12hrs and counting at @NiceAirportFR. No water, no info, no BA staff. 6 more hours to wait. Single girls, families and elderly on their own.”

Elaine Lewis from west London told The Independent: “I naively thought we would be bussed to a hotel and put up for the night.

“Many people especially with young children ended up staying in the airport because there were no hotel rooms or, if there were, they were too expensive.

“This morning we got to the airport at 6am to learn that our 8am flight is expected at 12.30pm.”

Graham Burdon tweeted: “Our family has just spent the night on airport concourse and we have to take 15hrs delay whilst watching other BA flights board on time. There are still no BA staff here.”

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We are sorry for the delay to our customers’ travel plans due to the thunderstorms across parts of the UK and Europe.

“We have been doing everything we can to minimise disruption. 

“By law cabin and flight crew require a minimum rest time and unfortunately it took longer than originally anticipated to locate accommodation for them as the hotels across Nice are very busy at the moment.

“We contacted customers as soon as possible to advise them of the delay.”

At Biarritz airport in southwest France, easyJet cancelled Friday night’s departure to Gatwick at late notice.

One 14-year-old passenger. Georgiana Hillier, was told the airline would provide no assistance and that she should return in five days for the first available flight. 

Her father, Chris Hillier, said: “I am apoplectic with rage towards easyJet and their abandonment of my 14-year-old daughter for five days in a foreign airport.”

An easytJet spokesperson said: ”Due to thunderstorm activity across Europe on 10 August, easyJet like other airlines, saw some disruption to its flights to and from UK airports because of air traffic control restrictions and runway closures.

“Unfortunately, due to limited hotel availability particularly in London, we were unable to provide hotel accommodation for all passengers and advised them to source their own accommodation for which they would be refunded.

“While the situation is outside of its control, we would like to apologise to passengers for any inconvenience. The safety of its passengers and crew is the airline’s highest priority.”

Across the Spanish border in Girona, a Ryanair flight to Birmingham was cancelled while passengers waited in the departure lounge. One of then, Jessica Longbottom, said: “Our replacement flight is on Sunday out of Barcelona to East Midlands. 

“We all had to arrange our transport and hotels late into the evening. Families with children were struggling.”

As a result of Friday’s disruption, widespread cancellations are continuing at Britain’s two busiest airports, with as many as 10,000 passengers affected.

At Gatwick, easyJet has cancelled around 20 flights, including to holiday spots such as Marseille, Nice and Split in Croatia.

British Airways has grounded around 30 flights, mostly to and from Heathrow, with some very long delays. 

An inbound British Airways flight from Venice to Gatwick is operating 20 hours late.

Motorists crossing to France from both the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone complained on social media about long delays while passports were checked by French border officials.

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