Cancelled flights due to an air traffic control failure have left passengers stuck in the UK and abroad – and some with no idea when or how they will get to their destination.
A British journalist who faces being stranded in France for up to six days due to the technical issue said there is uncertainty over who will pay for the extended stay.
Rory Dollard, 40, cricket correspondent for PA Media, said he and other passengers stuck at Bergerac Dordogne Perigord airport have heard “absolutely nothing” about what caused the technical fault, which led to his Ryanair flight not taking off.
He said he was told it may take up to six days before he and his family – his wife Joanne, 40, and children Emily, 10, and Arthur, eight – can return home to Skipton, North Yorkshire.
The technical issue which limited UK air traffic today has been fixed by NATS. Schedules still remain significantly disrupted. Please only travel to the airport if your flight is confirmed to be operating. We are working hard to minimise the impacts and assist those affected.
— Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport) August 28, 2023
He said: “I’ve never been in a situation like this before and because of the language barrier it’s hard to work out exactly who’s responsible for which part of the cost.
“If you need to find a hotel for the next five/six nights, who’s paying for this? Is it Ryanair? Is it your insurer? Is it somebody else?”
He added that he could miss covering three England matches, while his wife, who is a social worker, could face delays to “important cases”.
Mr Dollard said: “We’re at Bergerac airport in the south of France, it’s a very, very small airport so there’s only two flights affected but every conversation at the desk is a 20-minute conversation.
“The line is moving very slowly, but other than checking our phones and checking on Twitter, there’s been no information about why this has happened, we’ve been checking this ourselves.”
Meanwhile Ryanair passengers waiting at Stansted airport in Essex said there were cheers when two flights to Copenhagen and Paphos were announced for boarding on Monday afternoon.
Some delays/cancellations likely to/from the UK today, 28 Aug due to UK ATC failure pic.twitter.com/dyAKoQHswq
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) August 28, 2023
They said they had heard airlines cancel about five flights while they had been waiting at the gate.
A passenger at Stansted said: “After boarding the flight we’ve been sitting on the tarmac ever since. The pilot said we boarded so could get in the queue to have our flight plan manually processed.
“He’s now come back on to tell us the system is fixed but there’s still lots of delays.
“We’ve been given a take-off slot for one hour’s time. By that time flight will be over four hours late taking off.”
Lyudmila Hristova, 57, said her and her husband’s plans to attend her niece’s wedding in Bulgaria were “ruined” after BA cancelled their 2pm flight from Heathrow to Sofia.
Mrs Hristova, from Catford in south-east London, told the PA news agency: “The flight was cancelled and now we are looking for some information on how we can arrange another flight.
“It is so difficult, they just got us out of the airport, it was very rude. There was no information, just some leaflets and that’s it.
“Everything is ruined. We don’t know (when we will be able to fly). We are waiting for emails from them.”
Her husband Hristo Hristov, 60, said: “It was not good customer service at all. They gave us a leaflet and numbers.
“They have not rebooked our plane, they only gave us a £10 coffee voucher.”
And a German couple are considering returning home by train after their flight from London to Stuttgart was cancelled.
Myria Mebold, 36, also said that British Airways “didn’t know anything at all” when she and her husband asked about the situation and their flight.
She told PA: “We are waiting for any information and checking if we can go back by train or anything, I don’t know. Somehow we have to get back home.”
Asked if BA was helpful she replied: “No, they didn’t know anything at all. They said the system doesn’t work and they can’t give any information and we have to come back at 6pm and maybe then they can give more information.
“It was a nice day in London but now it is starting to get annoying.”
She said the flight had been delayed to leave the UK after 1am on Tuesday, but planes cannot land at Stuttgart during the night.
Lawrence Sinclair, 26, who works for a holiday company, told PA he had to book on to a new BA flight to Gothenburg in Sweden, which leaves at 8.50pm, after his earlier flight was cancelled.
He said: “I don’t know if the later flight is going to go or not. I was supposed to go at 3.50pm.
“Hopefully I will fly at 8.50pm but that is going to be delayed, isn’t it. It’s annoying, I’m going to see my girlfriend in Sweden, but if I don’t go today I’ll go tomorrow.”