Welcome to Dublin Airport, where snowfall causes chaos

Amid long delays, passengers are kept in the dark and given a €5 voucher, with no food to spend it on

Passengers queue for information in Dublin Airport's T1 as snow and ice causes delays. Video: Paul Cullen

 

Welcome to Dublin Airport’s version of chaos theory; where half an hour of snow causes carnage in terms of delayed and cancelled flights, disrupting the travel plans of thousands.

Where passengers are told next to nothing, are sent to gates where no aircraft wait, and customer service desks where no airline staff are to be found. Where even when they do procure a measly €5 voucher after their flight is delayed, there is no food or coffee to be had. And when, after hours of being left in the dark, their flights are delayed until the following morning, they are left to find their own bed for the few hours of sleep available to them.

It was snowing as I arrived at the airport on Sunday afternoon, in good time for a 6.30pm Ryanair flight. Prepared for a delay, I hunkered down with a book, like many others. But the snow ended, the hours passed and the terminal building got more and more crowded.

Outside, the Ryanair planes were going nowhere. People said there were problems with de-icing. At one point, a man appeared on a cherry-picker, wielding a brush which he used to push snow off an aircraft. And still nothing moved.

No information was provided about our flight until about 9pm, when we were told to go to a new gate. That gate listed three other flights, but not ours. The wait went on.

Then came an announcement: Ryanair would give us a flight update when it had some information. Other flights were cancelled, some went ahead, hours late. The rest of us kept waiting.

People weren’t angry; more bemused, even amused. The news came that we would get a voucher for food “once we find out where it can be redeemed”. At one point, a passenger (I assumed) grabbed the mike, declared a particular flight cancelled “and we’ll see you all in Coppers”.

Eventually, it stopped being funny. Nobody from Ryanair was telling us anything, could tell us why a short snow shower was followed by this ridiculously long wait. Dublin Airport was claiming it was “operational”, and yet this section clearly wasn’t. And we were the lucky ones; social media filled up with angry tweets from passengers stuck four and five hours in their planes without going anywhere, denied a free bottle of water and, in some cases, unable to use the toilets.

Close to midnight, almost six hours after it was supposed to depart, our flight was postponed to the following morning. Its would-be passengers were hustled away from the gate, and told to go to the check-in desk in arrivals to arrange accommodation or rebook. There, the queue snaked back and forth across the concourse, thousands of stranded passengers attended on by at most three service staff.

With my flight now supposedly leaving at 5.45am, there is little point in heading home. So, like thousands of others, I am spending the night in Dublin Airport, and hoping, just hoping, that things might work better tomorrow.

Update: Paul took off at 7.00am. He was quite relieved.