A Scottish holidaymaker is fuming after being kicked off his delayed flight home from Greece due to staffing issues – only to later watch the plane take off and reach its original destination without any passengers onboard.
Steve Dongworth, 34, arrived to Corfu Airport with his partner Sean Rafferty and hundreds of passengers at 7pm last Saturday, more than three hours ahead of the planned 10.15pm departure time.
They were soon informed the flight was delayed until 1am, but after being driven by a bus to the plane, they were told while boarding that the captain had ‘gone over his legal time limit’ for working hours and that they would need to return to the airport.
Travel firm TUI were unable to provide last minute accommodation and the passengers were left stranded in the ‘sweltering’ airport until their new flight time of 1.45pm the next day.
Mr Dongworth branded TUI ‘disgusting’ after elderly people and ‘children with autism’ were left ‘severely distressed’ by the 20-hour ordeal, which saw them forced to sleep on the hard floor of the departures lounge.
The Scotsman could not eat any of the sandwiches available in the airport due to his dietary needs, surviving off a packet of crisps given to him by a fellow passenger.
At 3.44am, a furious Mr Dongworth – who had enjoyed a week-long cruise in the Adriatic Sea – was stunned to see on the FlightRadar24 tracking app that their TOM4TE flight to Aberdeen had still taken off and was heading to its original destination.
Steve Dongworth, 34, arrived to Corfu Airport with his partner Sean Rafferty (pictured together) and hundreds of passengers at 7pm last Saturday, more than three hours ahead of the planned 10.15pm flight departure time
Passengers appear unimpressed as they are told they have to return to the Corfu Airport in the early hours of the morning
TUI were unable to provide last minute accommodation and the passengers were left stranded in the ‘sweltering’ airport until their new flight time of 1.45pm the next day
Mr Dongworth curled up on the floor of Corfu Airport after being ordered to leave his flight after 1am last Saturday. He was not placed on another flight until 2.45pm the next day
After being driven by a bus to the plane, passengers were told while boarding (pictured) that the captain had ‘gone over his legal time limit’ for working hours, and that they would need to return to the airport
Mr Dongworth claims when questioning why the flight had gone without them, a TUI rep said it was because the cabin crew were over their working hours limit, not the pilot.
The holidaymakers finally managed to get on another flight to Aberdeen at 2.45pm on Saturday.
Speaking today, he said: ‘We got told that the captain was over his legal time limit and the likely outcome was he would need to go and sleep for 12 hours and take us home the next day.
‘It was sweltering inside the gate and no shops were open – parents with children were begging airport staff for water.
‘At 3am a TUI rep appeared but hid behind a door on her phone for 30 minutes and told us she didn’t know anything.
‘We were told those who wanted to leave could do so but would not be allowed back into the gate until they had checked in for the new flight.
‘Obviously, we were not keen on leaving the airport to wander the streets of Corfu at 4am so we all got told to find a cafe and wait there.’
Mr Dongworth branded TUI ‘disgusting’ after elderly people and ‘children with autism’ were left ‘severely distressed’ by the 20-hour ordeal
At 3.44am, a fuming Mr Dongworth – who had enjoyed a week-long cruise in the Adriatic Sea – was stunned to see on the FlightRadar24 tracking app that their TOM4TE flight to Aberdeen had still taken off and was heading to its original destination (pictured)
Mr Dongworth said the group were told that if they did not leave, the police would remove them.
He said it was during this time that they noticed the plane had taken off and that they used the tracking app to ‘follow it all the way back to Aberdeen.’
He added: ‘The TUI rep told me it was the crew who were over their hours not the captain and so he could fly the plane which was not what we had all been told.
‘The next day I couldn’t eat any of the sandwiches as I’m dairy intolerant and there was nothing that wouldn’t have made me violently sick.
‘We got offered another sandwich at 12 and so I asked the airport staff what I should do as there was no TUI rep around.
‘She said that TUI had told them that was all we could have but luckily a nice passenger gave me some crisps that they had.
‘There were children with autism who were severely distressed and the staff weren’t helping. Elderly people too, left to sit in baking heat for 21 hours, it was disgusting.’
A spokesperson for TUI today said: ‘We’re really sorry to customers travelling on flight TOM1585 from Corfu to Aberdeen on 22nd July which was unfortunately delayed as a result of knock-on operational disruption.
Steven and Sean (pictured together) has enjoyed a week-long cruise in the Adriatic sea before enduring 20-hours in Corfu Airport
Mr Tafferty sleeps on the floor of Corfu airport while his flight takes off with no passengers onboard
‘The crew for this flight was impacted by an earlier delay which meant they were outside their mandatory operating hours and needed to rest before operating the flight from Corfu.
‘Our teams were handing out bottles of water and meal vouchers to affected customers at Corfu Airport and we kept them up to date with text messages while we worked on a new flight plan.
‘Regretfully, a lack of hotel availability in the area meant we couldn’t source any overnight accommodation for customers as we normally would in these circumstances.
‘Customers are entitled to EU 261 compensation and details of how to claim have also been provided.
‘We do everything we can to get customers away as planned and, while instances like this are rare, we recognise we fell short of our usually high standards and apologise again.’