Northern Ireland

British Airways: NI woman recounts 48-hour flight ordeal

Anne Ludlow
Image caption Anne Ludlow said that passengers had been treated "very poorly" during the incident

A Northern Ireland woman has described the "absolute bedlam" she faced after being stuck in London for two days due to the mass cancellation of British Airways flights.

Anne Ludlow landed at Heathrow after 10 days in Spain on Saturday.

However, she did not return to Belfast until over 48 hours later.

Alex Cruz, the airline's chief executive, has said he was "profusely sorry" over the incident.

He said on Monday that a power surge had caused an IT failure and that a back-up system had not worked properly.

The failure affected 75,000 passengers across 170 airports in 70 countries.

Image caption British Airways aircraft were grounded at Heathrow on Saturday

Ms Ludlow became one of that number when she arrived in Heathrow on an Iberia flight on Saturday afternoon.

She told the BBC that people had been treated "very poorly" during the incident, and that her weekend involved two days without luggage and three different bookings on flights to Belfast.

When her flight from Spain arrived in Heathrow, Ms Ludlow said she and other passengers were left on the tarmac for over three hours.

She added that the flight's stewards appeared to "have no information".

"We were getting all our information from mobiles, people texting us and the two Spanish ladies beside me were interpreting what the captain was saying because he wasn't speaking English.

"That started us off but we didn't imagine what we were going into Terminal 5 to face."

Image copyright @AnnaOnTheWeb
Image caption Piles of checked luggage pictured on the floor at Heathrow

Ms Ludlow said there was "just queues everywhere" in the terminal.

She added that staff advised her to "go home, just leave the airport".

"I asked about my luggage and they said, 'well, you're not going to get it today, it's somewhere in the system and you will not get it'."

She said she was advised to either join a long queue or leave and register for her luggage online.

"I think they had no information, the ground staff were very calm but they had nothing to tell us."

Ms Ludlow also said that, unlike other passengers at Heathrow, she did not receive any letters or leaflets on her rights as a passenger and how she could claim money back.

She added: "I heard people asking for water and asking for food and they were just told to keep their receipts and they can claim it back."

Image copyright Michael Singh
Image caption Passengers faced long queues in Heathrow over the weekend

Ms Ludlow said she was one of the "lucky ones", as she was able to stay with her brother who lives in London, but that she had been left with no luggage and had spent £160 to get back to Belfast.

"I'll fight to get it (the money) returned but whether I do or not is another matter."

Ms Ludlow was due to fly back to Belfast on Tuesday morning, but her ordeal was not over yet.

Her initial flight was cancelled leading to another booking, through British Airways, for an Aer Lingus flight in the afternoon.

However, when she went to board the flight she was told the airline did not have a record of her booking.

'Very little help'

"I was told that I wasn't booked on the flight and it was actually overbooked by 14 people, but my name wasn't one of them.

"I was in a bit of a panic mode at that stage, I was a bit annoyed. But, he took all my information and eventually he tapped away and got me a seat."

She said there was "very little help" throughout the weekend from airline and airport staff.

"They should have immediately been supplying people with water, with a sandwich.

"I know that's very small and very minor but actually it settles people a little bit.

"But to tell people to leave the airport and use online (to register for luggage) when actually online isn't working, to tell people to phone up this helpline and you just get an automated messages to say you're in a queue and the queue is 30 minutes long - people can't do that."

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