Belfast easyJet passengers stranded after 'flight leaves without them'
A woman from Northern Ireland has told how she and her seven-year-old daughter were forced to sleep outdoors after they were left stranded in England by their airline.
They were among six passengers who missed easyJet flight EZY 839 from Gatwick to Belfast on Monday - despite being in the boarding lounge at the correct time when the aircraft took off without them.
Those affected said there was no final call for remaining passengers, including those who said their bags were removed from the flight before take-off.
Belfast mum Michelle Lilley (42) revealed that she then had to fork out hundreds of pounds for replacement airline tickets for herself and Isabella to fly home two days later.
"We were sitting at the gate, where the screen said the 8.30pm flight to Belfast was delayed, when we suddenly realised it had gone," the M&S employee said.
"There was no announcement, no final call, nothing.
"When we went to customer services we were told we'd have to pay for new flights and find somewhere to stay as there were no hotel beds available in the area.
"Isabella was in floods of tears. We didn't know what to do. We were scared.
"We took a train to a friend's house in Brighton and slept on a floor that night... someone lent us a tent for the following night.
"It was a horrendous experience. I was terrified travelling alone with a child at that time of night."
Driving instructor Tara Corr (46) from Belfast was also left stranded.
"My uncle had died in my arms days earlier. I was travelling alone and needed to get to Belfast for the body coming home," she explained.
"I'd been sitting at the gate for ages when I realised it had actually closed.
"I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. They didn't call me over the Tannoy. They even took my bag off the flight without telling me. I had been through an awful time. This made it worse.
"I had to stay with relatives in London that night and fly home the next day. It was hugely inconvenient. I spent hundreds of pounds on additional travel because of their inefficiency."
Geoff Simmons (54), a graphic designer from Kilskerry in Co Tyrone and his brother Peter (52), who now live in England, abandoned their trip.
"It was chaotic; there were no announcements and no final call," Geoff said.
"They told us we'd missed the flight when we'd been there for four hours. Our sister, who lives in Sligo, had to pay to stay in a hotel at Aldergrove that night when she discovered we weren't on the flight."
A spokeswoman for easyJet said: "A small number of passengers from flight EZY839 from London Gatwick to Belfast were unable to travel as a result of arriving too late at the gate.
"Punctuality is important to all of our passengers and so we ask everyone to be at the gate 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure.
"Check in, bag drop and gate arrival times are unaffected should a flight be delayed and if a passenger is not at the gate 30 minutes before the scheduled departure they will be unable to travel.
"Boarding for flight EZY839 on July 16 commenced at 8.34pm and finished at 8.49pm with last calls requesting all remaining passengers make their way to the gate for boarding made from 8.50pm. The aircraft doors closed for departure at 9.11pm."