From Thomas Cook overnight flight delay to Primera plane collision: the holiday nightmares plaguing travellers

As the bank holiday rush gets under way, hundreds of holidaymakers have discovered that their trips have been curtailed or abruptly cancelled.

A technical problem with a Thomas Cook flight from Gatwick to Dalaman in Turkey due out at 6.10pm on Thursday has delayed the departure until shortly before midnight on Friday.

Passengers complained of a shambles on Thursday as the aircraft was first delayed then towed away. John Gregson told The Independent: “Nearly midnight at Gatwick. Angry planeload of Thomas Cook passengers now in departure hall. No information, no hotels sorted – they’re suggesting we book our own now.

“Without a doubt the poorest customer service I have ever witnessed. Lots of exhausted, upset passengers. Horrible start to a £3,000 holiday.”

Eventually Mr Gregson and other customers were found rooms at a hotel in Crawley.

An estimated 220 passengers are waiting in Dalaman to fly home. A flight to and from the Egyptian resort of Hurghada is also affected.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: “Due to a technical issue, Flight MT104 from Gatwick to Dalaman has been delayed until this evening. This has resulted in a knock-on impact on our flight MT472 from Gatwick to Hurghada today, which is now scheduled to leave tomorrow afternoon as we try to minimise the number of customers affected.

“We are sorry to our customers for these delays and we are doing what we can to put it right.”

Passengers are being offered compensation as specified under European passengers’ rights rules: €400 (£350) to and from Turkey, and €600 (£525) to and from Egypt.

The costs to Thomas Cook of compensation and hotel rooms is likely to reach half a million pounds. The firm will also be obliged to hand back some of the cost of package holidays in proportion to the amount of the trip which is lost.

Thomas Cook customers flying between Gatwick and Tenerife were also delayed by over six hours because of a separate problem.

British Airways' lunchtime flight from Gatwick to Larnaca in Cyprus was over five hours late, while a Gibraltar-Gatwick flight on easyJet was over six hours late.

Primera Air’s troubled summer intensified when one of its aircraft struck a Ryanair plane while taxiing at Stansted airport. The Boeing 737 involved was taken out of service for checks.

A fire engine escorting a Primera Air Boeing 737 back to the terminal at Stansted after it collided with a Ryanair aircraft (Tom Hart)
A fire engine escorting a Primera Air Boeing 737 back to the terminal at Stansted after it collided with a Ryanair aircraft (Tom Hart)

Passengers are now due to depart in the early hours of Saturday morning.

One of them, Tom Hart, asked Primera Air on Twitter: “Can you please offer a specific explanation as to why you have decided it is acceptable to fly us out at such an unsociable hour after such a drawn out delay?

“Many of us have weddings to attend tomorrow and we will be doing so having lost a day of holiday, in accommodation we will not be refunded for, and we will be arriving fatigued when we had planned to do so rested after a day in the sun relaxing. You have taken this away from us and in return offer an airport hotel and flight through the night.”

The airline responded: “Due to holiday alternative flights are fully booked and rebooking isn’t available. This is the earliest possible time for departure considering the slot availability for departures and required time for technical team.

“We are very sorry and apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

The airline said that after what it called “a minor airfield incident” a departure from Stansted to Alicante was delayed by eight hours.

Last week, Primera Air’s maiden flight from Birmingham to New York operated five hours late due to a technical problem with the sub-chartered Boeing 757 jet. It has also cancelled next week’s maiden flight from Stansted to Toronto.

Saga, which specialises in holidays for the over 50s, cancelled an Adriatic cruise at 24 hours’ notice because of a problem over the vessel’s paperwork.

MV My Way, carrying 36 passengers, was due to sail from Split on a week’s Croatian island-hopping voyage.

Rosemary Self, one of the disappointed passengers, told The Independent: “As you can imagine this has caused us great distress.”

A spokesperson for Saga said: “Unfortunately Katarina Lines, the owner of MV My Way, contacted us on Thursday to inform us that the port authority paperwork to allow the ship to sail in Croatia would not be ready for this departure and that there were no alternative ships available.

“We absolutely share our customers disappointment that this holiday is unable to go ahead and, in addition to offering them an alternative holiday, we are also offering affected customers £300 per person as a gesture of goodwill.”

Mrs Self said she had accepted the “very generous compensation” and a transfer to an alternative date.

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