Northern Ireland

Euro 2016: Northern Ireland fans and families 'left stranded' at airport

Belfast International Airport
Image caption Passengers were due to fly from Belfast International to Gatwick

A number of Northern Ireland fans have had their dreams of watching their team in the last 16 of the Euros shattered after being left stranded at Belfast International Airport.

The fans were due to fly to Gatwick with Easyjet at 20:00 BST on Friday before travelling on to Paris.

However, after a number of delays the flight took off with only a small number of the 160 passengers on board.

Dozens of others were left behind.

Easyjet has apologised for any inconvenience.

Banbridge man Alan Hylands was due to travel on the flight and had booked an overnight bus to Paris.

He said there were a number of delays before passengers were told at about midnight that the flight was boarding.

'Pandemonium'

Mr Hylands said at this stage, because he had missed his bus connection, he booked a train to Lille online and then another to Paris.

However, he said when passengers were at the gate a member of staff told them the flight was cancelled.

"It was pandemonium at that stage," he said.

"There were families with wee kids in buggies, there were elderly couples - it wasn't just Northern Ireland fans, although there was a good few of us.

"Everybody was in good form, surprisingly, up until that point because we thought we were going to get away and then it went nuts."

He said another member of staff came out and told them he would escort them back to the EasyJet desk where they would be told what was happening.

He said they were taken back through the airport to the desk where one member of staff was on duty.

"Everybody was climbing over each other trying to get in, shouting at him," he said.

'Bit of a commotion'

He said that went on for about half an hour before the staff member said the flight had not been cancelled, that they had got a slot and were going to fly.

Mr Hylands said everyone calmed down and they were told they would have priority through security.

He said the security line was moving very slowly when there was "a bit of a commotion at the front of the queue" and some people came back through.

He said they told other passengers "they took the first 20 [passengers] down there and they boarded them and took off".

Mr Hylands said he was told by the EasyJet staff member that because the flight had not been cancelled he was not entitled to a refund.

He said he and his friend were out about £1,500 between them, but more than this they had missed out on a once in a lifetime trip.

He said he understood that flights got delayed or cancelled, but said the lack of staff on duty and the lack of communication was "quite frankly disgusting".

Mr Hylands said he was now resigned to watching the match on TV in Banbridge.

Another Northern Ireland fan, Alan Roper, told a similar story.

Image copyright PA
Image caption EasyJet said it sincerely apologised for the inconvenience caused

He had been due to travel with his 17-year-old son and had booked trains and an overnight ferry.

He said people felt let down and angry and there was little assistance at the airport or explanation of what was gong on.

Mr Roper said it was particularly disappointing as a father and son trip could not go ahead.

Sincere apology

In a statement, Easyjet said: "Due to air traffic control restrictions at Belfast International yesterday it was expected that the flight would need to be cancelled and so our ground agents transferred passengers back through security.

"However, during this time it was confirmed that the flight could depart in a limited time window. As a result unfortunately not all passengers had time to return through security for the departure."

The company added: "Passengers who did not travel yesterday were offered overnight accommodation and transfers on to other flights from Belfast this morning.

"We would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused."

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