Ulster's cheap flights boom
Where would you rather go - Barcelona or Birmingham? Surprising as it may sound, Ulster travellers could pay almost £15 less for a long weekend in Spain than for four days in central England.
At least that's what the Belfast Telegraph discovered yesterday, after a lengthy internet search, aimed at finding a cheap and cheerful city break in mid-December.
Based on one person travelling from Belfast to UK and European destinations and back - between December 13-18 this year - bargains aplenty appeared on airline websites.
And, thanks to the low-cost carriers - Easyjet and jet2.com - that currently operate from Belfast airports, flights to Amsterdam, Prague and Alicante were often working out cheaper than those to Aberdeen, Manchester and Cardiff.
Of the 13 destinations randomly chosen for comparison - with seven abroad and six in the UK - Barcelona proved to be the best deal of the day.
Travelling with jet2.com (from December 13-18), a return flight was up for grabs for the staggeringly small sum of £35.98.
Easyjet, meanwhile, was also offering a similar getaway package to the Spanish hotspot for £51.98 (from December 15-17).
That works out at only almost £7 dearer than the airline's domestic flight to Edinburgh over the same period, which costs a mere £44.98.
With a broad selection, Belfast UK-bound flights bobbing around the £50 mark, it may only cost a few pounds more to head for Europe - if reservations are made well in advance.
Internet bookings for Cardiff, Birmingham, and Manchester were obtainable at £50.90 from Belfast International Airport yesterday, obviously payable four months' in advance.
Using the same booking protocol, however, a long weekend in one of Europe's much-loved cities could cost as little as £1 more.
Trips to Geneva (£51.98), Prague (£58.98) and Amsterdam (£61.98) can be made via Easyjet, for example, for less than half the price of a TV licence.
There is bad news, however, for those wishing to visit the far parts of Scotland, as a return flight to Aberdeen will set you back £80.98. That's only just over £1 dearer than it would cost to go to the French capital for a long weekend, which can be done with Easyjet for £82.04.
But the good news is that if the winter blues are beginning to sink in, and you need a week away, head for Malaga.
A return flight will cost under £60 - with jet2.com and Easyjet - if you book now.
Airline sorry to woman who arrived early but missed flight
By Victoria O'Hara
Budget airline Easyjet has apologised to an Ulster woman after a computer problem led to her missing her flight - despite arriving at the airport 20 minutes before the check-in desk opened.
Annette McCann from Downpatrick said she was "appalled" with the Easyjet service after missing the first 24 hours of her holiday and then forced to pay an additional £105 to ensure she and her parents got on the next flight to Malaga.
She said when they arrived at Belfast International Airport on Sunday, August 5 at 2.30pm - for the 4.10pm flight - the passenger queue ran for 80 feet outside the terminal building.
Due to an IT problem only six of the eight Easyjet check-in desks were in use which caused the long delays for passengers.
In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph she said they kept their eyes on the time and flight calls - along with hundreds of other passengers flying to Luton, Stansted, Liverpool, Palma and Nice.
However Ms McCann said she was still left standing in the check in queue at 4pm believing her 4.10pm flight was delayed as no final call for her flight was announced.
When she eventually got to the check-in desk it was 4.30pm and was told check-in for her flight had closed.
"We asked how could it be when there was no final call given," she said.
Ms McCann and her parents were then instructed to go to the Easyjet customer services desk and were told there was a "rescue package" which would book them onto the next flight which was leaving in 24 hours - but cost £35 per person.
"We had to pay £105 in order to ensure we were booked on the next flight."
She said she also had to pay additional car parking and diesel costs.
"In all we missed 24 hours of our holiday and it cost us an additional £125."
An Easyjet spokesperson said it was an incredibly busy time in the airport and "due to IT issues with the check-in system, the airline could only use six of its eight check-in desks, and as a result, this significantly slowed the check-in process".
The spokesperson said there were two members of staff calling for passengers whose flights were due to close to come forward and announcements were made regarding the Malaga flight.
"However Easyjet accepts this is not the normal level of service we expect to offer our passengers and we apologise for this inconvenience.
"As a goodwill gesture we will refund the rescue fee charge and Ms McCann's additional expenses."
She added that Easyjet do have sufficient staff and resources at Belfast International Airport, but said the combination of one of the busiest times of the week and IT issues caused the problem.