People from Northern Ireland hoping to get home to their families for Christmas have told of their frustration and anger as their travel plans are left in ruins.
Sarah Louise Murray (31) from Lisburn and her partner Matthew Short (29) were planning to travel back from the West Midlands.
The couple had booked the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin for Wednesday for a five day stay but after the Republic of Ireland announced its UK travel ban last night, they were left with no option but to cancel.
“I am disgusted that the Executive has left people hanging on and not made an instant decision like Wales and Scotland,” said Sarah.
“We were hoping that some announcement would come from Stormont today as we needed to know what’s happening in order to cancel our tickets.
“In the end we’ve just had to make our own decision not to travel,” she added.
Maria Donaghy was planning to travel from Hampshire to visit her 99-year-old mother in Belfast.
“I’m taking the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast. With the Scottish Borders closed and uncertainty about ferries, this has left my mum distraught and distressed,” Maria said.
“I have planned every aspect of the trip with no stops. Now I will travel on Tuesday not knowing if I can cross the Scottish border.”
Others like teacher Ben Hunter (26) from Newtownards and now based in London have already abandoned their plans.
“I’m supposed to be flying to Belfast tomorrow to spend Christmas with my family but I’ll be staying here now with my flat mate, who is from Donaghadee.
“My parents are devastated and my brother is pretty upset too,” Ben said. “While I could still come home, it’s not worth the risk as I don’t know what I might pick up at the airport.”
Ben added: “I understand the decision but I’m finding the airlines are being very unhelpful as they aren’t discouraging travel and still allowing flights to take place. This is confusing as I’m sure many people will take the risk when really the airlines should tell us not to fly.
“I feel so disappointed as being a teacher I have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic especially in recent weeks and now I can’t see my family at Christmas.
“The Northern Irish government have also been unclear regarding people travelling back home over Christmas and they have simply urged people to ‘rethink’ plans rather than cancel, which is so confusing.”
Fellow London-based teacher, Michelle Conway from Cranagh in Co Tyrone was already in the departure lounge at Heathrow airport on Saturday when the Tier 4 move was announced.
“I made the difficult decision to be off-loaded from the flight and face Christmas alone,” Michelle said.
“Thankfully, British Airways were helpful and honoured the cost of the flight with travel vouchers.
“I certainly don’t envy their job over these next few days, though.
“It irritates me that the government have known about the new strain and rising case numbers for around a week and when explicitly asked, have said they wouldn’t force people to cancel the plans they had made for Christmas,” Michelle added.
“At the last minute, a ‘U-turn’ was made, meaning people are completely unprepared for the new situation. It’s the little things that add insult to injury: throwing out all perishable items only to have to repurchase them again a few hours later, certain family members who won’t receive a gift as they were intended to be hand delivered and thus, not posted.”