Passengers endured an 11-hour flight to nowhere and then faced chaotic scenes at the airport after a nightmare start to their holiday. Holidaymakers had left Bristol Airport for an early morning flight on Monday to Madeira but ended up spending the night in a Gatwick hotel.
The easyJet plane flew around the Portuguese island twice and then diverted to a different island. They then went back to the Portugal mainland before returning to Bristol without leaving the plane at all, Bristol Live reports.
The nightmare continued after the 11-hour flight as they then had to wait three hours before being taken by bus to Gatwick and put up in a hotel overnight. They then were told to check in at 5am for a second attempt at their holiday on Tuesday.
Airline easyJet has apologised for what happened, and said high winds at Funchal Airport on Madeira meant the flight was cancelled while the passengers were still on it. Those on board finally arrived at Cristiano Ronaldo Airport on the Madeiran island, around 24 hours later than planned, and said the best thing about the experience was that the passengers developed ‘great camaraderie’ in the face of a deteriorating situation.
“They told us that the wind speed at Funchal was too high to land, but we were stacked up in a queue twice and other planes made it down,” one passenger said. “We saw Madeira from the air multiple times but never managed to land at Funchal – the diversion to Porto Santo, which was very nearby, was apparently to take on fuel to circle Funchal again several more times without landing.”
“No one was allowed out at Porto Santo, and no reason was given and if we’d have gotten off there we could have got a ferry to Funchal.
“A handful of passengers with hand luggage only were allowed off at Faro, but told they were then on their own as the company had decided Bristol was where we were being taken,” he added.
But having seen their holiday destination from the air several times during the day, their trip ended back where they started at around 6pm, about 11 hours after they first took off, at Bristol Airport. And that, according to the passengers, is where things got worse.
“When we got back to Bristol it was chaotic and the phone line staff were giving little to no consistent information and frequently dropping the calls,” said one passenger, Cardiff University scientist Timothy Easun, who was travelling on a family holiday.
“One of the subcontracted ground staff went above and beyond to find out what was going on, to get us on a coach to Gatwick, that got us to a hotel just after midnight, from where we had to book ourselves taxis to Gatwick itself for 5am to get there in time for the morning flight. Which we have had to book ourselves and will have to claim back,” he added.
The almost three hours at Bristol Airport saw passengers trying to find out for themselves what was happening.
“There was a total lack of communication at Bristol,” said Dr Easun. “We started optimistic on the plane, but when the pilot pulled us out of the waiting stack and headed to Faro it was obvious we were in for a really long day… there was no support on the ground in Bristol: The app didn’t work, the website wasn’t working and the people on the phone were rude and unhelpful. By the time the coach arrived we were all very tired and resigned to our fate,” he added.
A spokesperson for easyJet apologised for what happened, and said the windspeed was too high to be safe to land.
“We can confirm that flight EZY6245 from Bristol to Funchal diverted to Porto Santo and subsequently to Faro, as a result of winds gusting outside the limits of the aircraft,” he said. “As the forecast was unfortunately not set to improve, the decision was taken to return to Bristol the flight was to be cancelled.
“Whilst this was outside of our control we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused as a result of the weather. We did all possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for affected customers, providing hotel meals and accommodation where required, as well as the option to transferring to an alternative for free, or receive a voucher or refund.
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is our highest priority,” he added.