Caught in the terminal

LAST UPDATED: 21 Apr, 2010 @ 11:50
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Caught in the terminal

The shiny, new terminal 3 that opened in Malaga last month was built to accommodate millions of extra passengers from the UK.

But, if you were to take a wander around the terminal last weekend, you could be forgiven for thinking it was in a rural backwater like Montpellier, or Middlesborough.

Indeed, in the wake of the volcanic ash cloud sitting above most of northern Europe, it was hard work to find any passengers trying to get back to the UK and other northern European destinations.

On Friday afternoon only two flights left the airport; one to Zurich and one to Dublin, with Aer Lingus, which caused an almighty stampede, with tickets costing up to 200 euros one way.

To say the terminal looked like a ghost town would be an understatement.

All that was visible were small lines of people wanting information from the handful of budget airlines that bothered to give it to them.

One or two others mingled among the polished plastic seats discussing alternative ways of travel back to Manchester, Gatwick, Liverpool and Bournemouth.

In total, 102 flights were cancelled on Friday, with only a fraction of the usual 54,000 passengers a day managing to fly.

It was the same story on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

All Ryanair flights were cancelled to and from Malaga until at least Wednesday, while anyone travelling with Easyjet to Manchester, for example, was told that they could exchange their cancelled flight for free for the earliest available flight which was given as this Friday (April 23), eight days later.

“At the same time they are offering tickets for flights before then at 411 euros one way,” claimed English teacher Sarah Connolly, 30, from Liverpool.

In tears, she explained how she and her eight-year-old son Jack had been given replacement tickets for the following Friday and she was now fretting over losing her job at Holy Cross school, in Manchester, if she couldn’t get back by Monday.

“What choice do I have?” she said. “I can’t afford 411 Euros, so I had to take what they gave me. I can’t afford to get new flights on my salary.”

Rubiya Abbas, 27, who was also travelling with her young baby Adam, ten months old, and sister Aisha, were told that Thompson Airline would make an announcement at 1am in the morning and they should wait to find out.

“We are praying we can get a seat on the ferry, and we think it is worth having a go.”

“We have been here all day so it is outrageous to make us wait all that time until the middle of the night,” she said.

“We could have at least found a hotel in Malaga. It’s going to be a long and painful wait, particularly with a ten month old baby.

“I am praying we can get out tonight.”

Graphic designers Denise and Eefje Hopje, both aged 27, from Holland, were having to design their own trip back by way of (hopefully) a plane to Barcelona and hire car to Amsterdam.

“We need a bit of luck, but we think it is possible,” explained Denise. “We have some very important meetings on Monday so we have to get back.”

The Lewin family from Surrey also tried a bit of lateral thinking when their Easyjet flight back to Gatwick was cancelled.

“We didn’t know what else to do except come here and try to get a flight out somehow,” said Tracy Lewin, 35, who has two teenage girls in tow.

An hour later they took the brave decision to buy four single tickets to Dublin, at nearly 200 euros each, with a plan to then get a ferry over the Irish sea to England and then get a train back to London.

“We are praying we can get a seat on both the ferry and train,” continued Lewin. “But we just want to give it a go. We think it is worth it.”

They were not the only ones.

Another traveller with Dunkirk spirit Mike Collins, 62, an expatriate Briton from Calahonda, also purchased tickets to Dublin for his wife and grandson, with the hope of getting back to London.

“We’ll just have to work out how to get back from there. Hopefully there will be ferries available and, if not we can at least get a decent pint of Guiness there,” he said.

None of the employees at the airline help desks were prepared to make any comments.

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