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Heathrow like a jungle, says Northern Ireland man caught up in flight chaos

By Donna Deeney

An already gruelling journey from Mexico to Belfast turned into a nightmare for a Ballymena man caught up in the chaos sparked by an IT failure in British Airways.

Peter McNeill was expecting to touch down at George Best Belfast City Airport on Saturday from Heathrow, the last leg in a journey from Central America, where he has been working.

Confronted with no information and a growing “sea of luggage”, the Co Antrim man and his companions endured an epic 36 hours stuck in London before finally getting a flight from Birmingham to Belfast last night.

Read More: British Airways IT outage: Northern Ireland flights hit

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McNeill said being in Heathrow was akin to being in a jungle with queues of disgruntled stranded passengers stretching as a far as the eye could see.

“I was expecting to fly to Belfast from Heathrow at 1pm on Saturday but they announced, first, it was delayed by 30 minutes, but then all the information just disappeared off the screen,” he said. “The only way we found anything out was from the news reporting an IT failure, but none of the staff came near us.

“Everybody was in one big crowd — there could have been anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people in that terminal — it was a jungle, it was crazy.”

BA was yesterday unable to say how many flights would be cancelled or how long the disruption is likely to continue for.

A spokesman said: “Our focus is on updating customers and doing what we can to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible.”

Experts predict the knock-on effect could continue for several days and BA is facing huge compensation costs.

The glitch is believed to have been caused by a “power supply issue” and there is no evidence of a cyber attack, the airline said.

Faced with a night sleeping on the tiles of the terminal, Mr McNeill’s group started phoning around nearby hotels instead — something that is usually done by the airline.

“By the time it came to 9.30pm on Saturday and we were still not getting any joy from BA, who gave us a bottle of water and a wrap to eat, that was it,” he said.

“I had said to the BA staff about providing us with a hotel, getting us transport to a hotel or even giving us information about flights but they said: ‘No, no, we can’t do anything’.

“We left the airport then even though we knew we were leaving our luggage behind us. We filled in a form and were given a tracking order but, with a sea of luggage, I am worried that I might never see my bags again. We took the decision to travel to Birmingham and got booked onto the flight to Belfast City at long last.”

He added: “I have been dying to get home. It is my wedding anniversary on Saturday and my wife Sara and I are going to Lake Garda in Italy — but we are not flying with BA thankfully.”

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