Guernsey Press

‘No one knew what was going on’

SOME islanders seriously delayed by Monday's national air traffic control meltdown finally got home yesterday, hours after they originally hoped.

Mark and Melissa Guille were initially booked to return on a Gatwick flight yesterday but changed to Condor Liberation’s route from Poole today as the flight disruptions over the bank holiday weekend resulted in some passengers opting to go by ferry. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32471195)

But some still have not made their final destination.

Mark and Melissa Guille were due to be on the 4.15pm flight from Gatwick, but instead returned more than 20 hours later on the ferry from Poole.

‘It’s been a very long and tiring 24 hours, and quite an additional expense,’ said Mrs Guille.

‘It’s probably cost us an additional £300 to get home, plus having to take extra time off work.’

The couple arrived at the airport at 11.30am, and were enjoying a long lazy lunch when they first heard of the unfolding drama.

‘The first we heard of anything was from other people in the cafe who were receiving messages about their flights,’ she said.

‘What surprised us was there was never any Gatwick-wide formal announcement over the tannoy, it was all word of mouth.’

It was not until they went to the Aurigny desk at 2.45 that they were advised it was a major incident and they should rebook, or look to make alternative arrangements.

‘No one knew what was going on, the Gatwick hotels were filling up, and there was a sense it could go on for days. It seemed a really a significant problem.

‘With all the unknowns we decided to head to Poole and book accommodation.’

While the Guilles headed to Poole they said other Guernsey travellers had gone to Portsmouth to try and get the overnight ferry.

The couple had been away at a festival in the UK, and had one advantage over other travellers as the airport swelled with frustrated travellers.

‘We were the envy of Gatwick as we had camping chairs with us, so at least we had somewhere to sit. Everyone was saying we could have sold them for a fortune.’

Adam Hooper, his partner Shannon Lancaster, and their 10-year-old daughter Grace had left Guernsey at 7am on Monday, hours before the air traffic control problems started, and had planned to spend a day in London before flying with Easyjet to Spain at 10pm.

‘We were having coffee when we got a news alert about the problem,’ he said.

‘We’d already had our flight bumped back to 1am, so we thought we’d better go straight to Gatwick.

‘By the time we got there the flight had been cancelled, so we just started looking for accommodation. Luckily we got the second-to-last room at the Premier Inn.

‘We spent five hours trying to get through to Easyjet, but just kept being cut off.’

But when they woke in the morning there was more bad news. ‘It was a package tour and it had just been totally cancelled, we weren’t given any alternative, just a refund.’

At 2pm yesterday afternoon the family were still at Gatwick, weighing up whether to return home or look alternative flights and searching the internet for UK breaks.

‘There are thousands of people around us in the same situation,’ said Mr Hooper. 'We are just trying to salvage something from our holiday. Our 10-year-old has taken it like a champion, her attitude has kept us going.’