Hundreds stranded after Ryanair cancels flights


HUNDREDS of passengers were left stranded and forced to spend the night at Luton Airport last night when Ryanair cancelled three return flights between Dublin and Luton.

The company said an aircraft it had leased developed technical problems and could not operate the three flights out of Dublin. No alternative aircraft could be found because of an "enormous demand" for seats resulting from the motor racing at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Passengers at Luton were hit hardest. Some 300 people who arrived there to check in were informed first that the Ryanair flights were delayed, but at about 7 p.m. the information screens went blank and passengers were told there would be no flights. Passengers booked on yesterday's 10.30 a.m. flight to Dublin spent the entire day at the airport.

Servisair, the ground handling agents at Luton, informed passengers last night there was no accommodation and advised them to return home. Many passengers were forced to spend the night in the terminal building.

The Ryanair passengers had to queue up to return their duty free goods, queue again for their luggage and finally try to ensure they got bookings on flights leaving Luton this morning. Some left for Stansted Airport to try to get alternative flights to Dublin.

In Dublin, about 200 of the 300 stranded passengers were put on alternative flights to other British airports. Others returned home and the remainder were provided with accommodation.

In Luton, however, no accommodation was provided. A Ryanair representative said in explanation, that there were "only 80 bedrooms in the town".

The passengers at Luton were mainly Irish and many were travelling with young children. They were offered a £5 food voucher in compensation and many had to make do with sleeping on camp beds in the airport departure lounge.

"I have been here for 10 hours and am sick of it", said Mr Jim Roche, from London. "Ryanair knew they were not going to get any flights out to Dublin today, but did not inform us until 7.40p.m."

A spokeswoman for Luton Airport advised passengers to make their complaints to the airline. "We are trying to ensure all the stranded passengers get home sometime on Monday, but we cannot guarantee at what time", she said.

Mr James O'Sullivan, who was travelling back to Dublin with his three children after visiting his mother, said he would never fly with the airline again. "Ryanair have not even had the decency to send a representative to Luton and explain to us what is happening. They just keep passing messages to us through the airport staff and all they have given me is £5 in compensation", he said.

As passengers telephoned their homes to explain the situation, many appeared close to tears. Mrs Catherine Collen, who had attended a wedding in England with nine friends from Dublin, said that she was worried about her children. "My mother is looking after my three kids, but how is she going to get them all to school and pick them all up when she's got to go to work? I have just been told I won't get home until after 6 p.m. on Monday."