Manchester airport delays see heartbroken family £1,500 out of pocket after Ryanair flight to Rome takes off without them
A Lancashire family have been robbed of their family holiday and left £1,500 out of pocket after missing their flight due to continued chaos at Manchester Airport – and this despite their plane returning to the runway for being told that he could not take his place.
Michelle Donohue, 32, has planned a four-day trip to Rome with her husband Robert and their 12-year-old son. The vacation would have been the family’s first trip abroad since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with long queues and communication problems, Michelle and her family were forced to return home .
The family were due to fly out of Manchester Airport on Tuesday April 5 via the Ryanair service at 7.15am. Knowing the current situation at the airport, they planned to arrive at the airport just over four hours early after leaving the house at 3 a.m. But when they arrived, they were immediately greeted by the “nightmare” sight of endless queues.
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Michelle’s initial thought was that the family could get away with it, having already obtained their boarding passes and only having to queue at the self-checkouts before heading to security. The family found the queue moved relatively smoothly despite backing up to the outside – but due to the number of passengers the wait was still around an hour long. To speed up the flow of people, the staff opened other avenues, that’s when the problems increased.
Michelle, from Skelmersdale, told LancsLive: ‘A lady had come and taken us with a large group and moved us around, then we stopped, and she was on her radio, then she said ‘the place where I was going to move you is closed now”. We were like, where are we going?
“They cleared a lane for us and then people started overtaking people, my husband ended up being down to about four or five people. People were just kind of freaked out and then we got to this safety line and It just stopped, it felt like hours and hours and hours.”
At the stop, staff called anyone with a flight in ten minutes to turn up, meaning the queue was again broken to accommodate those passengers. Just after 6 a.m., Michelle began to worry as her flight approached, but says she remained calm as she could enter security not far from where they were standing in the waiting line.
“It was getting closer and closer to the time, but I could see where you were putting all your stuff on the trays, so all we had to do now was go through it – but it stopped again. Apparently people were pilling the trays and stopping any treadmills,” Michelle said.
“We were about ten people away from the set – and it was five minutes to seven [20 minutes before their flight] – and the radio was on one of the staff “anyone who got a flight at quarter past seven must pass now”. But he couldn’t hear it so I just yelled at him to say excuse me, they’re calling for the quarter past seven flight.
“I showed him my boarding pass and he let us through, then we lined up just for the trays, so there were four people deep, then there were four lines for one. People were passing and this little old man got tipped over to the trays; my poor son was freaking out.
Michelle and her family made it through security, but being in Terminal 1 meant they had to run to Terminal 1 at 7:10 a.m. to reach the gate. At this point, they knew they were late for the 6:45 a.m. gate closing, but Michelle says staff assured her the flight crews knew what was going on and the plane wouldn’t leave. without them.
Seeing the faces of the husband and son as they reached the door initially claimed the family had missed the flight – but they weren’t the only ones with a group of around 20 huddled at the door.
“They told us, the plane won’t let you on, let’s go, this door closed at a quarter to seven but we said to ourselves, ‘we’ve been here for four and a half hours’. They said ‘I know, but it’s not Ryanair’s fault’. Other people showed up and it turned out there were 20 of us stuck in that queue,” Michelle said.
Michelle was then asked to wait 30 minutes as staff tried to secure her family a flight to Milan and a coach trip to Rome.
“She went, came back here at eight, so we went for a drink, called our family members and came back ten minutes later. She didn’t come back,” Michelle said.
Another member of the party of 20 told Michelle there was a second office they should go to for flight rearrangements where they were greeted with another large queue. Due to a medical emergency with a passenger on what should have been their flight, the group watched as their plane returned to Manchester Airport.
Thinking they might be left on board, Michelle and her family were once again disappointed as they were told the pilot still wouldn’t allow them in due to the number and baggage they had already sorted.
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“They got everyone off this flight so they could look after someone and so we said, can we go now, we’re here. Although it’s not our fault and she said no, I’ve already spoken to the pilot and he won’t let you in, he already has his numbers,” she said.
The flight did not take off again until 9:11 a.m. as the family and the rest of the group were unable to sit on the plane. Instead, they were directed to baggage claim where another traumatic experience awaited them.
After waiting another 20 minutes to be taken away in baggage, Michelle said she saw “hundreds and hundreds of other people’s bags” lying around – some with flight tags from last Friday (April 1). She was later told by a member of staff that the whereabouts of their bags was unknown.
“He was in shock. He said ‘I don’t know where your bags are, I haven’t been told,'” she said. Another 30 minutes passed before the member of staff came back and confirmed that their bags were on their way back.
“It was just an absolute nightmare. You can see the staff are overwhelmed and doing two or three tasks at the same time and there were some that when you delegated a task to them they were fine and they were happy and they could fine but at one point a guy was letting people pass and he was told by another member of staff to stop letting people pass and he said I had loads of people trying to get out and she said I had plenty of people here.
“It’s traumatic, it put me off going to this airport and I feel like it’s going to be for a long time, it’s not an easy fix. There were people collapsing, a girl who was receiving medical assistance and the group we were with, they were so upset – there were Italian family members trying to get home.”
Michelle and her husband paid £1,500 for the flights and although they were able to get refunds for activities booked in Rome, her travel insurance will not be able to pay for the flight due to the unprecedented circumstances which are why she missed out the flight. Instead, it is now up to her to complete a complaint form and contact Manchester Airport.
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: ‘We apologize to those passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport over the past few days has not lived up to their expectations. Our industry is facing challenges in scaling up operations very quickly following the removal of Covid restrictions, which have caused immense damage to our sector over the past two years.
“We are actively recruiting for hundreds of new roles in areas such as security, but are advising passengers that due to staff shortages they may have to wait longer than usual in the coming weeks. , and that they should arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.
“We understand that airlines and third-party service providers on our site face similar challenges and are working with them to provide the best possible experience under the circumstances.”
LancsLive approached and Ryanair for comment but received no response before publication.