Flybe apologises after flight to Belfast grounded
Flybe has issued an apology to passengers after a Belfast-bound flight from Manchester was cancelled on Sunday night.
The flight, which was due to depart for George Best Belfast City Airport at 6.50pm, was repeatedly delayed before being cancelled by the airline.
Around 100 passengers were offered overnight hotel accommodation or transport to alternative airports.
Among those trying to get back to Northern Ireland on Sunday night was Newtownards businessman William Stockdale (52), who had been returning from a holiday in France.
He said yesterday: "I got a text on Sunday afternoon to say that the 6.50pm flight was delayed to 9pm.
"When I got to Manchester Airport it was further delayed to 11pm and then 11.30pm.
"At that point I was thinking that it was becoming too late for it to arrive into Belfast City.
"Finally at 7.30pm the flight was cancelled and we were told to go back to the Flybe check-in desk at arrivals.
"We joined the long queue which barely moved all night. I think they managed to process four people in four hours.
"People were just left standing for hours as there was nowhere for people to sit so many were simply lying on the floor.
"By midnight nothing had happened so I ended up rebooking myself on another flight for Monday and getting a hotel room.
"That was after trying six other hotels within an eight-mile radius of the airport which were already booked out.
"The whole thing was shambolic and this sort of thing is happening far too often with no one taking any action."
Amy Chambers (27) from Annalong was returning from a hen party in Manchester when she was confronted with the cancelled Belfast flight.
She eventually returned home yesterday morning, some 12 hours later than planned, after catching a flight from Birmingham as all flights out of Manchester were fully booked.
"The airport was totally packed on Sunday night. It took a long time getting through security and then the flight was first delayed by almost three hours," she said.
"By the time it was delayed until after 11pm I was starting to lose patience before it was cancelled altogether."
Amy says there was "a mass of confusion" among passengers about what to do next.
"We were told to join the queue back out in arrivals but there was no clue about what was going on. I was in that queue for eight hours and everyone was just lying around everywhere.
"Belfast was among a number of cancelled flights and it seemed that nothing could be done. People were getting frustrated at being left waiting around."
She added: "It was just a nightmare experience and I came home absolutely exhausted.
"The irony is that my Flybe flights to Manchester at the weekend were compensation for being messed about by the airline previously and now it has happened again."
The airline has issued an apology to the affected passengers.
"Flybe would like to sincerely apologise to those passengers inconvenienced by the cancellation of the above flight yesterday evening," a spokesperson said.
"This was due to the knock-on effect of a lengthier than anticipated delay impacting the inbound aircraft to Manchester from Paris Charles de Gaulle scheduled to then operate the Belfast flight.
"Despite this delay, Flybe had nevertheless made contingency plans to operate the BE486 flight into Belfast International Airport and transfer the passengers to Belfast City by road as the delayed flight was due to arrive after the Belfast City curfew.
"However, the significant delay on the inbound Paris flight was further exacerbated by then having to wait to be allocated an opening in the busy ground handling operations' schedule to allow the necessary ground handling functions to be carried out (such as baggage handling/fuelling of aircraft/passenger loading of aircraft etc) during what was an exceptionally busy traffic weekend at both Paris and Manchester airports.
"Because of this additional delay, this meant that Flybe had no option but to eventually cancel the Belfast City flight as the crew scheduled to operate this flight had then also exceeded their maximum legal duty hours.
"Flybe fully complied with its duty of care that included passengers being accommodated at local hotels overnight and offered the option of being re-booked on the next available flight today (Monday)."