New plane coming for stranded Dublin pilgrims after intervention

Earlier Bosnia-bound jet took off and landed twice with technical problems

Dublin Airport. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Dublin Airport. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

A group of pilgrims stranded at Dublin Airport since the small hours of today is praying for a miracle – and may finally have got one.

“We’ve been here since 5.30 in the morning,” said Kerry woman Ann Marie Tidings, “and we’re not going up in that plane out there,” she added in reference to a forlorn Europe Airpost jet, chartered by Dublin tour operator Marian Pilgrimages, but sitting on the apron and going nowhere in a hurry.

Niall Glynn of tour operators Marian Pilgrimages said this evening that a new plane was en route from Paris and it was hoped to depart Dublin Airport, with all the erstwhile stranded pilgrims on board at 7.30 pm, landing in the Croatian city of Split at 11pm local time.

The stranded pilgrims are among about 160 from Kerry, Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Limerick who had hoped, and paid, to be in the Bosnian pilgrimage centre of Medjugorje, via Split, destination of their charter plane.

“We were up at 1am,” explained Ann Marie, leader of the 22 strong contingent of pilgrims from north Kerry, “and in the Airport for a 5.30 check-in.”

The plane took off at 7.30am – as planned – but the journey was not plain sailing, so to speak.

“We took off and were about 20 minutes up in the air when the pilot said ‘sorry, we’re having a technical problem and will have to return to Dublin’,” explained Ann Marie.

After a period on the ground, the plane took off again with the technical problem apparently fixed.

“Over the Irish Sea and we’re nearly over Manchester,” says Ann Marie, “and again, ‘sorry, technical problems – we have to go back again’.”

Since then, the pilgrims, who include some in wheelchairs and some children, have been stranded at the airport.

“We’re stuck,” said Ann Marie. “We’re here looking at the plane that took us up and down twice and we’re not getting back into it again. They either get us another plane or we’re going home.”

Mr Glynn said the technical problem appeared to have been a sensor that was triggered in flight, setting off an alert in the cockpit. After the first aborted flight, it was thought it had been repaired but, as proven in the second flight, it had not.

He said it was “understandable” that several of the would-be passengers were reluctant to give the plane a third go and so a new plane had had to be obtained from the airline, Europe Airpost, a France-based charter company that specialised in moving mail and newspapers during the night, and passengers during the day.