Stranded Brits tell of travel horrors after air traffic control chaos

Air traffic control meltdown: Wedding plans in chaos, no flights to UK for ’12 days’, families staying at airports with no food and drink, and others forced to beg relatives for money in desperate scramble home… stranded holidaymakers’ travel hell

Stranded Brits are sleeping on airport floors with only chocolate bars for nourishment as the air traffic crisis rumbles into a second day.

Dozens more flights have been grounded today on top of more than 1,200 cancellations yesterday after National Air Traffic Services (Nats) suffered a ‘technical issue’ preventing it from automatically processing flight plans.

Thousands of holidaymakers have been left stuck as a result, with some being told they won’t be able to get a flight home for a staggering 12 days.

In the meantime, families have scrambled to secure hotel rooms for their unexpectedly prolonged stay, often at inflated prices, paying hundreds of pounds per night.

Some also revealed how they have had to beg relatives for money to help get them home.

The boss of the Civil Aviation Authority confirmed today that passengers can expect to be provided with food and drink as well as accommodation if delayed overnight.

However, scores of people reported having to spend the night sleeping on the floor of airports, with many more complaining about the lack of a proper meal. 

Katrina Harrison and her family – including one-year-old twin grandchildren – stayed at Leeds Bradford Airport after their flight to Antalya was cancelled on Monday afternoon.

Ms Harrison, from Stockton-on-Tees, said: ‘We were given a bottle of water, a KitKat and a packet of crisps but no proper food. Apparently some people have got vouchers but we haven’t been given any.

Mary Byrne, pictured with Alex Ogden and Eiisha Mullaney was told her flight to Corfu was cancelled at the last minute

Adam Ashall-Kelly, 35, and his fiancée Christine Marriott, 36, had their flight from Manchester to Verona cancelled on Monday, just days before they tie the knot near Lake Garda on Saturday

Jo Winter and her children (pictured) ended up paying £300 to hire a car and drive three hours to Caen on Monday night, staying in a £150 hotel, before boarding a ferry crossing back to the UK today

Stranded travellers reported having to pay hundreds of pounds for last-minute hotels – if they were lucky enough to get a room, with thousands of families, including some with babies, being forced to sleep on airport floors

Many passengers were forced to sleep on the floor due to a shortage of hotel rooms

‘All the shops sold out of food and drink last night. We weren’t given a blanket, we’ve been absolutely freezing.

‘There were no hotels to stay in, we couldn’t get the car out of the car park.

‘We haven’t slept, we tried to sleep on the floor but couldn’t. Luckily the children could sleep in the pram.

READ MORE: Tens of thousands of Brits could be refused compensation as airlines could argue delays were ‘out of their control’ 


‘The holiday was supposed to be a family celebration of a few things. We’ve spent £12,000 on it and we’ve been treated like muck.

‘We’re hoping to get on a flight tonight but if it doesn’t happen tonight we’ll have to go home. We can’t keep sitting here with the babies.’

Meanwhile, a couple face a race against time to save their dream Italian wedding amid the chaos. 

Adam Ashall-Kelly, 35, and his fiancée Christine Marriott, 36, had their flight from Manchester to Verona cancelled on Monday, just days before they tie the knot near Lake Garda on Saturday.

However, the bride and groom-to-be need to register their marriage at a local court before they can be legally wed – and while they have managed to book on to a flight to Milan on Wednesday, they have ‘no idea’ whether that too will be cancelled, the BBC reports.

Mal Dolby revealed how his son and three grandchildren are stuck in Bodrum airport in Turkey.

He told MailOnline: ‘Easyjet are saying they can’t help, have offered no food or drink and told them the earliest flight back to Luton is not for 12 days.

‘They have no money, no one is helping them.’

Meanwhile, holidaymakers arriving at Manchester Airport today revealed how they were only told their flight had been cancelled at the boarding gate.

Mental health worker Elisha Mullaney had booked a flight to Corfu with Jet2.

The 41-year-old said: ‘I received a text from Jet2 telling me to arrive as normal. We checked in our bags and went through security only to be told at the gate it was one of five flights to be cancelled.

‘It is very annoying and they must have known well in advance. It’s my son’s 16th birthday today, which makes it worse.

‘I tried to find alternative flights so we could still go but it was going to cost us £600 a ticket. The flight price had increased so much.

‘I’m just hoping we will get our money back and we can find something else quickly.’

Elisha, from Manchester, was going on a week’s holiday with her son Alex Ogden.

Mary Byrne, who was also on the same flight, said: ‘I don’t understand why Jet2 can’t just delay the flight.

‘They made us go all the way through the checking in process knowing they was no chance of us boarding and departing.

‘I thought everything with air traffic control would have been sorted by now. We are really disappointed.’

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale, was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight.

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale (pictured with Barbara and Chris Rowley), was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight

Builder Ashley Weaver, 35, waited three hours for his luggage at Birmingham Airport after he and his family flew home from a £12,000 holiday in Orlando, Florida

A screenshot shows the lack of flights available to passengers still stranded in Palma

She said: ‘We expected to be delayed with what we had seen on the news but we did think we would get away.

‘We had checked in, found ourselves a comfortable spot to wait and got a round of drinks. Then we were told the flight had been cancelled.

‘I’m going to have to go back into work tomorrow because if I don’t I won’t have enough days left to take later. I’ve already lost one day.

‘We were supposed to be meeting friends out in Corfu so I’m going to have to let them know.

‘We are going to try to get out later in the week and extend the holiday if the hotel is available.’

READ MORE – Terrifying footage from plane flying through Mallorca storm shows passengers screaming and crying as extreme turbulence causes some to vomit 

Barbara Rowley, who is retired and in her 70s, said: ‘We’ve just tried to get a taxi home and were told it would cost £87. Only a few hours ago it was £40.

‘It is wrong. Everyone is trying to make a quick buck and cash in on what is happening. I am fed up and have been looking forward to this holiday.’

Chris Rowley, 51, a sheet metal worker, said: ‘It is always chaos over the bank holiday weekend. Something always seems to happen to cause delays and cancellations.

‘I am gutted because I’ve worked seven days a week for the past two weeks to get in front with my work because I knew I was going away.

‘Why did they make us go through security if they were just going to cancel the flight?

‘We have spent a lot of money already and all we have done is spend a few hours in the airport. I just hope we can fly out later in the week.’

One family of five from Manchester, stranded in Paris, revealed how it wasn’t just flights that were booked up, but they were unable to get on Eurostar or even ferry services from Calais to return home.

Instead, they ended up paying £300 to hire a car and drive three hours to Caen on Monday night, staying in a £150 hotel, before boarding a ferry crossing back to the UK today.

Jo Winter told MailOnline: ‘Honestly it has been a nightmare and it’s still not over as once on ferry tomorrow we have somehow got to figure out how to get from Portsmouth to Manchester.

‘This is our first abroad trip in four years and what was a lovely four day trip to Paris and Disneyland has ended in a extremely stressful situation.

‘Although not easyJet’s fault I will have my doubts to ever use them again as they provided no help or assistance – the ground staff just didn’t want to know.’

Jo Winter was enjoying her first family holiday with her three children (pictured) in four years before the chaos unfolded

Passengers queue up at 3.48am this morning at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

Passengers queue for check-in in the car park at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two this morning

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Scenes at Manchester Airport early this morning as queues build up at Terminal One

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning 

Passengers queue up at 4.20am this morning at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two

At Heathrow, passengers revealed how they had to make last minute changes to their travel plans following the air traffic control chaos.

Steven Williams, 26 said that he was initially due to fly to Brussels on Sunday from Stansted on a budget airline.

But after the flight was cancelled, he travelled down to London, had to stay overnight in a hotel and then booked on Brussels Airline.

He said: ‘It’s cost me another £400 for the hotel and new flight but there’s not much I can do about it because I have to be at work this evening. I was only on a short visit to the UK and I wish I hadn’t come.

‘I don’t understand how, in this day and age, the air traffic IT system could collapse like this? It’s a joke and it’s ruined things for a lot of us.’

Ray Edwards, 58 from Essex had his flight to Denver cancelled yesterday.

READ MORE – MARK PALMER: The UK’s flight chaos is yet another travel foul-up… and with the worst possible timing 

He said: ‘I had to book a hotel near Heathrow but luckily my flight is going out today. I don’t understand why there’s always some kind of travel chaos in Britain when there’s a bank holiday?

‘The hotels around the airport put their prices up and I hope the airline are going to refund me because it wasn’t cheap.’

Elsewhere, Alexandra Williamson, 45, from Birmingham, was due to fly to visit her daughter in Prague when her flight was cancelled at the last minute.

The chaos meant she was forced to fly to Germany before catching a connecting flight to Prague.

The mum-of-one said: ‘My flight was cancelled one hour before I flew. The airline booked us in the hotel, we had to wait for six hours for the hotel, but then there were more delays as people were waiting for the rooms.

‘Now I’ve had to fly to Frankfurt, and then wait to get to Prague. I’ve had to fly to Germany with Lufthansa.

‘I’ve only been here to see my daughter for a quick weekend. I had to call work and rearrange everything.

‘You didn’t know what was going to happen. At Birmingham they kept us in a queue. It was scary.

‘I finally flew to Frankfurt this morning and I will be in Prague about 2pm. I’m really not sure what to think, it was really messy.

‘If someone told us before, a few hours before, but it was only an hour. It was really stressful.

‘We didn’t know what was going to happen. It was stressful, finding people to ask. We didn’t know what’s going to happen. We found one lady and she helped us.’

Passengers wait at Stansted Airport, north of London, on August 29, 2023 after UK flights were delayed over a technical issu

Frustrated passengers wait at Stansted Airport for more information on their flights amid the chaos

Passengers at Stansted faced long waits today for more information on their flights

Nick and Gemma Furlong were forced to wait seven hours in Gran Canaria Airport with their one-year-old daughter after their flight was cancelled.

Nick said: ‘We were waiting for about seven hours for our flight back to Birmingham.

‘The most frustrating part was not knowing how long it would be and all the flights before ours that were waiting a while and were cancelled.

‘We’ve got a one-year-old with us and think the most challenging part in the airport was that there was nothing open.

‘We’re there during the night with no food or drink or anything to keep us occupied or refreshed.

‘I think it would have been a lot easier in the daytime with facilities. It was very frustrating.

‘We flew from Gran Canaria. It was during the middle of the night, but we set off at quarter to four in the morning.’

Builder Ashley Weaver, 35, waited three hours for his luggage at Birmingham Airport after he and his family flew home from a £12,000 holiday in Orlando, Florida.

The married fater-of-two, from Smethwick, said: ‘There was a baggage delay of three hours. It got quite heated between Tui and Birmingham Airport. One of the representatives for Tui had to leave. They didn’t give any explanation for it.

‘We saw the delays from the air traffic control. We were willing to be stuck in the airport.

‘For baggage, if we left we couldn’t get back in. We couldn’t get food. My holiday was end to end was £12,000 but that’s a not small amount of money.

‘There was no real reason for the delay. The airport just said it’s not our fault.’

Several passengers at East Midlands Airport booked overnight hotel stays at short notice due to the air traffic control disruption, in the hope they can depart on Tuesday.

Michael and Chloe Kennedy, from Meath in the Republic of Ireland, were due to fly home on Monday after attending a festival but their flight cancellation meant they have had to take unpaid leave to cover the extra day and do not know whether they will be compensated.

Mr Kennedy said: ‘We queued for ages to leave our bags and just as we got to the front it was on our phones that the flight was cancelled.

‘It was chaotic, (staff) were trying their best in there but a lot of people were not happy.

‘Eventually we just left and booked a space in a hotel.’

Mrs Kennedy added: ‘Our flight was at 8pm and we were not told until 6.30pm, but we were lucky that we had not put our bag through security as some people were not allowed back through because of the risk, staff said.

‘They had to return duty free items and things, it was all a bit mad.’

Angela Sykes, from Nottingham, is due to travel on the 11.25am Ryanair flight to Dublin on Tuesday, which remains scheduled to depart on time, with her family for four days.

She said: ‘The first we heard about the issues was this morning when we put the radio on.

‘It’s our first holiday since November – it means we’ll be sat in the airport a little bit but I don’t care, I’m going away.

‘We heard the radio and said, ‘Oh well, we will go the airport and if we get there, we get there’ – we like to go with the flow. There is nothing to worry about on the app but we will soon find out.’

Staff at Heathrow revealed that it was less chaotic than Monday as passengers had been told to check if their flights were departing before going to the airport.

Addressing the air traffic control fault, Rob Bishton, interim chief executive at regulator the Civil Aviation Authority, said: ‘We understand the challenges many consumers continue to experience when flights are delayed or cancelled following yesterday’s technical issue that impacted National Air Traffic Services (Nats) flight planning system.

‘Passengers who continue to be impacted can find information about what they are entitled to on our website.

‘In the event of delays or cancellations, passengers will be expected to be provided with food and drink as well as accommodation if delayed overnight.

‘As part of our regulatory oversight of its activities, we continue to engage with Nats, and once its investigation is fully complete an incident report will be provided to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

‘The report’s outcomes will then be shared with the Secretary of State for Transport.

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