EasyJet passengers were told to leave Bristol Airport or face being arrested after their night-time flight to Belfast was cancelled, prompting an apology from the airline today (May 23).
Passengers have told of being ‘herded out like cattle’ from the airport terminal last night despite many being unable to book hotels through the airline’s website and app, as instructed by the company.
Rosaleen Gormley, who was on a weekend in Bristol to see her friend’s daughter, said a family-of-five she met on a rescheduled flight to Belfast this morning ended up sleeping back in the airport after being allowed to stay.
Explaining what happened, she said: “We went to the airport and a board indicated it [the flight] was leaving at 8.30pm - but we got a text at 7.53pm to say it was cancelled. We managed to book our flight for this morning, leaving at 7am, but when anyone tried to book a hotel, the site crashed.
“We rang and held for so long over and over and no reply. We were finally escorted out of the terminal and that was it.
“It was very badly handled. We were told we could be arrested if we didn’t leave and the staff just kept asking us to ‘get out’. No care or respect or thought that there are older people and families with nowhere to go.”
She added: “I was one of the lucky ones in that my friend and I had been staying at her daughter’s in Bristol so we got a taxi back there. However, I do know that others stayed in the airport. I spoke to a family of five and they had nowhere else to go.”
EasyJet said it was ‘very sorry’ to those impacted by cancellations in a statement to BristolWorld.
The airline also confirmed the cancellation of the flight last night, stating it was down ‘to air traffic control restrictions earlier in the day which led to the crew reaching their maximum operating hours’.
The statement said: “We did all possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and customers were able to transfer to an alternative flight free of charge, or receive a voucher or a refund.
“The quickest and easiest way for customers to book a hotel and transfer to an alternative easyJet flight is always via Manage Bookings or through the easyJet app. Customers can also contact us by phone to discuss other rerouting options, in line with EU261, and we always aim to reroute customers within 24 hours.”
It continued: “While this was outside of our control, we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by the cancellations. The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is our highest priority.”
Bristol Airport told BristolWorld that the easyJet customers would have been assisted by the airline’s handling agent.
They added: “The airline would arrange hotels, taxis, and refreshment vouchers, not the airport.
“If customers could not get home, or did not have accommodation and selected to remain at the airport, the care provided would be dynamic to what the customers required e.g. blankets, but this would still be arranged/co-ordinated through the airline handling agent.”
EasyJet services to and from Gatwick and Faro were also cancelled last night.
Independent travel journalist Simon Caulder said: “The airline is blaming a combination of air traffic control problems, but actually easyJet is in a right old mess because it has got enough staff for the flights it needs to operate this summer.”