Terminally ill girl 'devastated' after final family holiday axed in flight chaos

1 June 2022, 12:20 | Updated: 1 June 2022, 13:07

A dying girl's last holiday was cancelled by TUI
A dying girl's last holiday was cancelled by TUI. Picture: Alamy/@PostariniD/Twitter

By Will Taylor

A terminally ill girl had her final holiday with her family cancelled in Britain's airport shambles, leaving her relatives "absolutely devastated" and in tears, it emerged today.

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Huw Davies said he and 11 family members had planned for a "special holiday" for his daughter in Tenerife - the place where he took the girl's mother, who recently died, on holiday for the first time.

But instead they were told to disembark from the plane at Cardiff Airport as beleaguered travel company TUI texted them to say their holiday was cancelled.

Theirs is one of hundreds of flights to get scrapped as airlines and airports struggle with the surge in demand for travel driven by half-term and the Platinum Jubilee weekend, causing hours-long queues, forcing travellers to sleep on terminal floors and triggering a series of cancellations, devastating would-be holidaymakers.

Mr Davies, 59, from Porthcawl, near Bridgend, South Wales, said children and grandchildren cried when the flight was called off, and added that they were initially told it was due to a malfunction.

He told Wales Online: "This was a family outing for my daughter who has terminal cancer. It was going to be her last family holiday - and we just got booted off this flight.

Passengers have suffered long delays and cancellations across Britain's airports
Passengers have suffered long delays and cancellations across Britain's airports. Picture: @PostariniD/Twitter

"I think it's a load of b****** that they've said the engine went down, because that plane had flown in from Alicante.

"If this part was obviously malfunctioning on the way into the airport, why the hell did they load us? Why did they go through the motions? They knew that that plane wasn't going to take off."

Mr Davies added that he is up to £9,000 out of pocket and added: "It was a special holiday and to make it worse, we asked my daughter where she wanted to go, because she's recently lost her mother. She wanted to go back to where we took my wife on holiday for the first time."

Read more: Airport chaos: Over 160 flights cancelled today as police rescue stranded air passengers

Mr Davies said he only heard the trip was cancelled after other passengers got emails.

After being told to disembark, they were told someone from TUI would speak to them. Instead, a person from another agency turned up, claiming the cancellation was due to a malfunctioning part, he said.

On Wednesday, British Airways cut 124 short-haul flights from Heathrow, saying passengers got advance notice, while easyJet cancelled at least 31 from Gatwick.

Brits have endured hundreds of cancellations in the last week
Brits have endured hundreds of cancellations in the last week. Picture: Alamy

TUI is continuing to cancel six flights a day at Manchester Airport, a quarter of its schedule.

Cirium, the aviation data firm, said 377 flights from UK airports had been scrapped in the week to, and including, Tuesday.

Gatwick airport has seen 151 cancellations, with Manchester seeing 41, Heathrow 36 and Bristol 27.

Companies are struggling with both the demand caused by half-term and the Platinum Jubilee four day weekend.

Unions have blamed the aviation industry for culling so many jobs during the reduced demand for travel in the pandemic. It means they don't have enough people to meet the challenge.

The travel companies are struggling to hire more staff and get them processed through security checks.

Raab refutes claims the government is to blame for airport queues

A spokesperson for TUI UK apologised and said passengers would get a full refund within two weeks.

"The May half-term holidays are always an incredibly busy period with many customers looking to get away, and we understand that they will have been looking forward to these holidays for a long time," they said.

"While flight delays and cancellations with us are rare, unfortunately the increase in people going on holidays combined with various operational and supply chain issues has meant that a small number of our flights have been impacted.

Read more: Ministers slam airlines for 'completely unacceptable' cuts amid half-term hell at airports

Read more: Holiday misery for 34,000 Brits as TUI cancels six flights a day

"Our teams have been working tirelessly to support affected customers, through direct communications and providing overnight accommodation and transfers where needed, as well as meals and refreshments."

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said the Government had supported the airline industry with £8bn during the pandemic and that they had been warned about a rise in holidaymakers.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Wednesday: "There have been regulatory changes to help with things like staff recruitment and we can always look at smart, pragmatic ways to go further, but fundamentally the travel companies in the way you describe have got to take responsibility for their recruitment.

"And yes there may be things we need to help them with and have helped them with but actually the transport secretary Grant Shapps has been talking to them about this and about being braced for the resurgent demand for months.

"Amid some of the finger pointing going on, those are the facts."