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Coronavirus leaves Northern Ireland passengers stranded across Europe amid flight cancellations

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Thousands of flights across Europe have been cancelled (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Thousands of flights across Europe have been cancelled (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Thousands of flights across Europe have been cancelled (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Scores of Northern Ireland holidaymakers have been left stranded across Europe as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry.

Travel restrictions and a slump in demand have already seen airlines ground thousands of flights, with many temporarily laying off staff.

Countries including Spain, Poland and Cyprus have closed their borders to all non-nationals, while the EU is banning travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days.

As a result of the disruption and the short-notice cancellation of flights, many travellers have been left stranded.

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One woman from Northern Ireland, Pauline, had been on a short trip to Fuerteventura, the second-largest of Spain's Canary Islands, with her partner.

She was due to fly home to Belfast at 6.20pm on Saturday with easyJet, however after arriving at the airport and checking in, she received a text from the airline stating her flight had been cancelled.

Pauline was then contacted by the travel agent she organised her trip with and was booked on the next available flight home this Saturday, however that has also since been cancelled.

"We feel totally cut off and totally stranded. EasyJet have left us in the lurch. There's no representative here, no one has come to speak to us, we can't get any information from anyone," she told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

I am desperate, I am trying to hold it together, but it's difficult. I am a nurse, I'm used to working sticky situations, but nothing comes close to this Stranded NI holidaymaker Pauline

"We have taken it upon ourselves to come to the airport this morning at 6am to see if there is any opportunity to get on to any flight to the UK. Now the airline desks are closing their shutters because they've been inundated with questions from people in a similar situation to ourselves."

A total of 11,178 people have been infected with coronavirus in Spain, making it the worst affected European country after Italy.

Spanish authorities are maintaining a partial lockdown of the country's 47 million-strong population, stopping cars crossing its borders with Portugal and France and only allowing nationals, residents and cross-border workers entry.

EasyJet said it is currently operating rescue flights for those affected, however Pauline said she fears being trapped in Fuertaventura indefinitely.

"The only way I could describe this airport last Saturday is it was like a war zone, like Beirut," she said.

It's a living nightmare, can anyone at home do anything to help? Stranded NI holidaymaker Pauline

"Our biggest fear is that they are talking about closing this airport today and it will be closed for the foreseeable future, so there's going to be lockdown here - no flights in, no flights out.

"It's a living nightmare, can anyone at home do anything to help? I am desperate, I am trying to hold it together, but it's difficult. I am a nurse, I'm used to working sticky situations, but nothing comes close to this."

An easyJet spokesperson said: “Following restrictions implemented by the Spanish authorities, we are doing all possible to ensure those who need to travel to and from Spain including the Canary Islands for essential, work, health or repatriation reasons can do so.

"We continue to operate rescue flights which will be listed on our Latest Travel Information section of the website and customers can book onto these flights via the Manage Bookings page at easyJet.com.”

On Monday, easyJet said flight cancellations will continue on a rolling basis "for the foreseeable future" and could result in the grounding of the majority of its fleet.

The airline's chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “At easyJet we are doing everything in our power to rise to the challenges of the coronavirus so that we can continue to provide the benefits that aviation brings to people, the economy and business.

“We continue to operate rescue and repatriation flights to get people home where we can, so they can be with family and friends in these difficult times.

“European aviation faces a precarious future and it is clear that co-ordinated government backing will be required to ensure the industry survives and is able to continue to operate when the crisis is over.”

Belfast Telegraph