London Colney holidaymaker stranded in Spain by air controllers’ strike

A HOLIDAYMAKER from London Colney was left stranded in a Spanish airport for three days last week after being caught up in a national strike in France.

Lorraine Dockree, 25, of Five Acres, was one of a party of eight who spent an idyllic week in Spain before planning to fly home with easyJet last Tuesday, September 7.

But when they arrived at Palma Airport in time for their 9pm check-in, the group - which included four young children, two of whom were under the age of three - were met by a mile-long queue.

Lorraine, who works as a nanny and used to go to Francis Bacon school, said that the airport was abuzz with confusion: “We had such a lovely week of sun and sand - it was the first time my sister Gillian and her partner Adam had taken their two young children abroad - and so it came as quite a shock when something went wrong. I asked one of the airport employees what was going on and he said ‘everything is cancelled’ before walking away.”

Lorraine, who was also with her friend Stephanie and her two young children, said that it was unclear exactly who was on strike, although it has since become apparent that a national strike in France last Tuesday - which included French air traffic control - affected every aircraft flying through French air space, resulting in the cancellation of all flights that day.

After a four-hour wait in line, Lorraine and Stephanie were offered a free transfer to Liverpool on Sunday, and her sister’s family were given a Monday flight to Gatwick.

The whole party accepted the alternative arrangements and, just after 1am on Wednesday morning, easyJet split the group into two - Lorraine, Stephanie and the latter’s children parted from Gillian’s group - and transferred them to nearby hotels.

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But Lorraine, who has been put off flying forever, said that the situation got even worse from that point onwards: “Our hotel was absolutely filthy - the room was literally writhing with maggots and someone tried to get in with an electronic swipe card at 3am. We were all in tears and decided that we couldn’t possibly stay there until the Liverpool flight.”

She added: “We spent the whole of the next day, Thursday, at the airport trying to get a place on an earlier flight, but to no avail. Luckily easyJet then organised a much nicer hotel for us which we were very pleased with - but unfortunately my sister was still stuck in the same grubby hotel. The wait for easyJet food vouchers - a disappointing four or five euros each - was ridiculous, and my sister had to walk miles to the nearest McDonald’s for affordable food.”

After one more night, Lorraine, Stephanie and her two children finally got a place on a flight home, arriving back in London Colney on Friday. Gillian arrived a day later although, according to Lorraine, there are still many passengers of all airlines stranded at Palma airport, some of whom could only get free transfers on October flights.

EasyJet spokesperson Andrew McConnell apologised for the cancellation of the flight and added: “It was due to a national strike in France, which forced easyJet and all other airlines operating to, from, around and over France to be disrupted.”

He added: “We did everything within our power to look after passengers, including the provision of food and hotel accommodation, and ensured that passengers were able to return back to the UK on the earliest available flight.

“Whilst the circumstances were totally outside of the airline’s control, we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”