Travel chaos for Cliftonville fans as Flybe cancel flight ahead of Europa League qualifier in Wales
Cliftonville fans have been left chasing alternative travel arrangements at the last minute after a Flybe flight was cancelled.
The Reds are playing Welsh side Barry Town tonight (kick-off 6.30pm) in the Europa League preliminary round first leg and supporters are now facing a race against time to get to the Cardiff International Sports Campus.
While the team flew out from Belfast International on Wednesday morning, recruiting chart-topping singer Lewis Capaldi into the Red Army on the way, a section of supporters had been due to fly from Dublin to Cardiff this morning.
However, those plans were plunged into chaos when Flybe reportedly notified passengers after 1am that the 8.35am flight was cancelled.
The airline has since explained that the cancellation was due to 'crew sickness' and offered passengers the opportunity to board the next available flight.
However, with the day's second Dublin to Cardiff flight not landing until 80 minutes before kick-off and leaving little wriggle-room for any complications, fans have come up with their own alternative plans.
Some Reds supporters have hastily rearranged their travel with a section of the support now said to be flying to Manchester before boarding a four-hour train to south Wales.
Another fan is flying to Exeter before hiring a car for the two and a half hour drive to Cardiff.
Flybe says that passengers were notified of the cancellation as soon as possible.
"Flybe would like to sincerely apologise to those customers inconvenienced due to the above flight being cancelled because of crew sickness," read a statement. "The cancellation was communicated to customers as soon as this became apparent in the early hours of the morning.
"Passengers are being offered the option of being re-accommodated on the next available flight or applying for a full refund."
Tonight's game is being played in Cardiff due, bizarrely, to the fact that Barry Town's synthetic pitch at their Jenner Park home allows a ball to roll 0.8m further than Fifa Pro test limits allow.
Cliftonville will host Barry in the second leg at Solitude next Thursday (kick-off 7.45pm), hoping to get through to the first qualifying round, where they would play Norwegian side Haugesund.
Belfast Telegraph Digital