Happy landings in Northern Ireland get Christmas reunions off to flyer
Annual festive rush to get back home for the holidays is under way
Northern Ireland actor and director Ian McElhinney was caught up in an unexpected drama when his youngest son's suitcase got stuck in London.
The Game Of Thrones star was at George Best Belfast City Airport yesterday as English teacher David (24), who now lives in Tokyo, was reunited with his luggage.
The 70-year-old explained that he and David, who's also a freelance writer and son to the acclaimed Belfast playwright and actress Marie Jones, were "just here to collect my son's bag".
"David came in last night from London but the bag didn't make it until this morning after a computer glitch at Heathrow," said the veteran actor who's in the TV series Krypton, which is set within the Superman universe.
"With everything that was going on yesterday at Gatwick, when the drones paralysed all flights at the airport, we were happy David was flying from Heathrow - despite the delayed suitcase arrival."
Although David loves Japan, he said he was happy to be home to spend time with his parents and older brothers Darren (in his 40s) and Matthew (29), as well as friends.
"I'm looking forward to dinner and drinks and plenty of Christmas cheer," he added.
Belfast bricklayer Craig Mulholland (29), who arrived on a flight from Birmingham shortly after 10am, was hoping to visit all his family and friends during a festive fortnight.
"I've been living in Coventry for the last two years and it's always good to come home and catch up with everyone," he said.
Warehouse worker Pierce Hudson (25), who's originally from Omagh but now lives in the East Midlands, said he was "just here for three days".
"That's the only time I could get off work; I have to be back in England on Christmas Eve," he said.
Ballynahinch native and joiner Colin Savage (38) and his 42-year-old sister Joanne Savage, who owns a planning consultancy business, both travelled on the same morning flight from Birmingham.
"We lost our father recently and this will be the first Christmas without him, so it'll be strange," he said, adding that he's home until January 2.
Joanne, who like her younger brother lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, said she was looking forward to catching up with their other brothers Barry and Patrick.
Fintona man Peter Wilson (33), who has been working on a British Aid funded project in Uganda for the last six months, arrived in Belfast via London after a gruelling 24-hour journey.
His parents Jennifer and John, who said they were "senior citizens", arrived at the airport in good time to warmly welcome their only child back for a well-earned festive break.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing friends and family and to spending some time in the Co Tyrone countryside before returning to Uganda indefinitely," said Peter, whose aid work has also previously taken him to Afghanistan and Jordan.
Educational psychologist Bronagh McCloskey (48), who has been living in Malvern, Worcestershire, for nine years, arrived back in her native Belfast with her daughter Eva Dyson, who turns 10 years old today.
"We're back for five days; there's nothing like coming home for Christmas and catching up with family," she said, adding that they'll be celebrating Eva's birthday in style.
Graphic designer Mark Moynihan was in great form when he touched down on home soil after getting on a flight to Belfast from London City Airport yesterday morning.
"Every single time I've flown home in the past it has always been from Gatwick, so you've no idea how happy I am that I missed all that drone chaos," he said.
"The only reason I'm on a flight from London City this year is because I can afford it for the first time, as I've finally got a full-time job."
The 41-year-old, who's back until New Year's Eve, said he was heading into Belfast to get a pint of Guinness in Laverys bar before later hopping on a bus to Omagh.
Also on the London City flight was Mary Edmond (67), whose brother John Edmond (72) and his 15-year-old granddaughter Lucy were there to pick her up and take her to Ballygowan.
"I'm staying with John for a week and I'm looking forward to some shopping in the city centre, sightseeing and a visit to Strangford Lough," she said.
London-based Lawyer Aoife Devlin (29) and 28-year-old Matthew Stevens, an engineer, who are both from Belfast, said they were delighted to be off work and able to spend a fortnight at home.
"I'm really just looking forward to eating lovely food and seeing my family," said Aoife, while Matthew, who also now lives in London, said he'd "be doing similar activities".
Diane Garner, a 27-year-old midwife who lives in Crawley, West Sussex, was on her way to Bryansford, Co Down, to see her mum this Christmas. "I have to get a taxi to Belfast International Airport first, though, to pick up the hire car, because I was supposed to fly into Aldergrove from Gatwick yesterday but couldn't because the flight was cancelled," she explained.
Civil servant Joe Jordan (45) from Banbridge, who now lives in the Isle of Man, hopped off a plane from Manchester yesterday and was "really looking forward to Christmas".
Meanwhile, Omagh's Lorraine Virtue (34) and her work colleague Jill Gourley (24), from Castlederg, who were wearing festive green jumpers, said they were "home, ready for Christmas" after their flight into the province yesterday.