TUI passengers at Cardiff airport were left "upset and stressed" when their flight got cancelled after they boarded the plane.
Passengers Gail Carpenter and wife Rebecca Calvente-Lopez from Merthyr Tydfil were looking forward to an 11-day trip which was postponed for nearly three years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The journey to Dalaman, Turkey was originally due to take off at around 6pm on June 27, but passengers remained in the UK until the following afternoon.
The NHS workers said a series of delays and poor communication had cut their holiday short and turned it into a "nightmare".
Gail, 60, said she and Rebecca, 40, arrived at the airport at around 1.45pm along with four other friends.
Gail, who works as an ambulance technician, said: "After being at the airport for about an hour we saw our flight was delayed until 8.30pm."
At around 8.45pm, Gail said they boarded the flight, believing they would soon be heading off to sunny Turkey.
However, around 45 minutes after they boarded, Gail said they were told by apologetic staff that an issue with a rowdy and intoxicated passenger had delayed their flight further.
She said passengers were told it would be an extra hour and 45 minutes before the plane could take off.
The couple said at around 10pm, staff told passengers to fasten their seatbelts.
Gail said: "Then [at around midnight] we went up the runway and turned around in the plane and then were told the flight had been cancelled and that they were returning us to the terminal.
"Then, all hell broke loose. Nobody knew anything. We were all waiting and nobody was coming back to us with anything."
Gail said it was "gone 1am" by the time the passengers were back inside the airport. She said many passengers were hungry as no refreshments were offered on the plane and food outlets at the airport had shut.
No food or drink vouchers were offered by TUI that night despite the delay, according to the passenger.
Gail said airline staff apologised for what happened and said hotels were available but that there were only 15 rooms.
She said: "The flight was full and nobody knew who was going to have these 15 rooms. They were saying to people they would have to go home if they lived close, if not pay for a taxi.
"They said TUI would refund people if they kept the receipt. This information was just not given out clearly to everyone sat there, you had to go and find somebody. It waslike Chinese whispers."
The group managed to get a taxi to take them to the hotel but Gail said some passengers stayed at Cardiff Airport overnight.
At 9am passengers received a text from TUI which said passengers would be picked up from their hotels at 11am to make sure they were at the airport ready for their new departure time at 2.30pm.
Food and drink vouchers worth £20 per person were also offered by TUI to spend at the airport.
Gail said she was so upset by her experience that it has put her off flying for good.
She said: "We are stressed and upset. It has been an absolute nightmare. This will probably be my last holiday to be honest.
"We both work for the NHS and we needed this holiday after waiting and working through Covid and it's been our worst nightmare from beginning to end. And it's still not over - nothing today will surprise me."
It is understood that Gail and Rebecca boarded their flight at 2.30pm.
A spokesperson for TUI said: "We’d like to apologise to customers due to travel on TOM486 from Cardiff Airport to Dalaman yesterday evening, which was delayed until this afternoon due to operational issues.
"We aim to communicate with customers as quickly as possible, with accurate and clear information, if there are any delays or changes to their holiday but appreciate we fell short of our usual high standards yesterday. We have been in touch with all impacted customers again this morning and they are now safely on the way to enjoy their holidays in Turkey."
Spencer Birns, Cardiff airport CEO, said: “We were sorry to hear of the delay caused to passengers on TUI flight 486 to Dalaman on Monday evening (27 June). It is upsetting for all those involved in these significant delay incidents. We actively encourage all of our serving airlines to look after their customers in the event of disruption and there appears to have been some failures in that regard on this flight.
"The airport will continue to work with its airlines to ensure that disruption and upset is kept to a minimum during these circumstances.
"We understand that last minute delays are incredibly disappointing and we’d like to apologise again to passengers for their experience, and thank them for their understanding."
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