‘I have been so stressed by this’: Aer Lingus cancellations overshadow couple’s Italian wedding plans

Debbie Morone and her partner Andy Neary have been organising their Tuscan wedding for two years

Debbie Morone and her fiance Andy Neary at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Fran Veale

The plans of a Dublin couple and their wedding party who are due to fly to Italy with Aer Lingus next weekend are up in the air with guests receiving warnings overnight that their flight is facing cancellation because of its pilots’ work to rule.

Debbie Morone is the distressed bride-to-be and she said she and her partner Andy Neary have been organising their wedding for two years and could lose as much as €20,000 if they and their four children can’t make it to Tuscany on time as a result of the dispute between Aer Lingus management and its pilots over pay.

“We are just two ordinary people who have been planning this wedding and saving for it for two years,” she told The Irish Times.

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“We booked with Aer Lingus as soon as the flights came out last August because they were the national carrier and we thought they wouldn’t let us down,” she said.

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But as talk of industrial unrest grew louder in recent days the couple grew increasingly nervous.

Ms Morone first made contact with Aer Lingus to find out what was happening early this week, hours after a ballot confirmed pilots had backed industrial action.

“On Tuesday when it was announced there would be disruptions, I called the airline and spoke to a lovely guy who assured me that if our flight was disrupted, it was their responsibility to put us on a flight with a partner airline, that I had nothing to worry about,” Ms Morone said.

Debbie Morone and her fiance Andy Neary at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Fran Veale

“I asked him if that was 100 per cent the case and he said yes.”

But then, on Thursday, things took a turn for the worse when some of the 19 guests due to travel with the bride and groom on June 29th started getting emails from the airline [warning of cancellations] so I called Aer Lingus straight away.”

She gave an airline representative the booking reference numbers for that flight, so she could link all of the guests to her booking for that day.

“I was told a supervisor would call me. I waited two hours and got no call, so I called again, this time I waited 1hr 17mins to get through and the I spoke to said that we could fly the day before, but that flight could get cancelled. I politely thanked her but said that was no use to us, we needed guaranteed seats to Italy.”

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However Ms Morone said she was told that “since the flight is not ‘officially’ cancelled, they can’t offer another airline to take us and I would be best waiting for the supervisor to call me.”

By midnight on Thursday she was still waiting for a call. Late on Friday evening she heard from the Aer Lingus and she was hopeful her wedding party would be re-routed through Belfast leaving a day earlier than planned in a effort to avoid the all-out strike called by IALPA for the day they are due to fly.

The travelling party are due to head from Rome to the Tuscan villa where they are supposed to get married in the company of more than 70 guests flying in from all over the world.

“I have been so stressed by this since last Tuesday. It’s just over a week until my wedding day and I should be worrying about getting my nails done and things like that and instead I am on hold with Aer Lingus and worrying about whether or not we will get there or the people travelling with us. And then there are all the others who are due to fly out in the days after we go.”

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Ms Morone said there were guests coming from Spain, Italy, UAE, the UK and Ireland “and we can’t not attend our own wedding.”

The wedding is in a villa in Tuscany, on July 3rd and the couple have activities and tours planned for the group of 75 guests from June 30th.

“In fact on June 29th our arrival day, we have a chef coming to the villa to make a welcome dinner for all guests that travelled with us on that day. We have paid our venue for 75 guests, if they can’t travel, that money is non refundable.

“We have also paid a private bus company over €2k to collect us all in Rome on the 29th and drive us to Tuscany. And bring the guests back on the 6th July to head home. I don’t know if they would be prepared to refund either. There are so many variables. We would stand to lose between €15,000 and €20,000.”

As she waited to hear from Aer Lingus she looked at alternatives including flights with British Airways which sits alongside Aer Lingus under the IAG aviation group.

“We are prepared to fly the evening before 20.15 into London Heathrow stay at a hotel of their choice, leave London on the 29th and 7.05 and fly to Perugia. That would work if the Aer Lingus flight is not going ahead,” she said.

“Unless they can reroute us in a reasonable and humane way, we are not prepared to spend another penny, we don’t have it anyway to spend, and we would absolutely not expect our family and friends to fork out anymore that what they have already kindly done to be with us on our big day.”

A spokeswoman for Aer Lingus said that it “fully understands the anxiety being experienced by customers”.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to protect as many services as possible. Any customer that is affected will be communicated with directly, notifying them of all the options that are being made available to them,” they added.

“Aer Lingus has also announced that it will be offering a number of options to customers who may be impacted by planned industrial action by IALPA commencing next Wednesday (26th June). Customers scheduled to travel between 26th June and 2nd July will be given the option to change their flights for free or cancel their flight and claim a refund or voucher.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor