TUI apologises after Exeter Airport travellers face 20-hour wait for flight to Crete

credit: BPM Media
Flights to and from Heraklion in Crete and Rhodes were impacted, along with a flight to Palma Credit: BPM Media

Holidaymakers have hit out after having to wait nearly 20 hours to board a TUI flight from Exeter Airport to Crete due to 'technical and operational issues'.

Passengers say there was a lack of information with people - including children and the elderly - being left with little or no food.

Others reported receiving vital flight information too late meaning they thought they had missed their new flight time.

TUI has confirmed flights to and from Heraklion in Crete and Rhodes were impacted, along with a flight to Palma. The Greece flight from Exeter Airport was due to leave shortly after 3pm on Tuesday (May 24).

Passengers were advised the flight was delayed, at first by half an hour and the time then continued to increase. By 6.30pm, passengers unable to return home were advised they would be taken by bus to available hotels.

Passengers were left stranded waiting for their flight for almost 20 hours Credit: BPM Media

A text was then sent by TUI at 10.45pm advising passengers staying in hotels that they would be collected at 3am for a 6.30am flight on Wednesday (25 May). However, upon arrival back at Exeter Airport, the delays continued and the flight eventually took off at 10.45am.

Tara Hastings, 59, from Sidmouth, said: "It does not seem organised at all. People were very good-natured and the airport was packed. People were knackered and Exeter Airport staff here were doing their best.

"It's been distressing for a lot of people and I think some people have been and gone because they've had enough.

"At first they said our flight was going to be delayed for half an hour and then a bit longer and longer. It wasn't the only flight delayed yesterday.

"I heard one person saying they didn't pick up the 10.45pm message last night until this morning so thought they had missed their flight which was very distressing for them. When people were back at the airport this morning at 6.30am we were told the plane had still not been fixed.

"Staff at Exeter Airport have been fantastic but there was no TUI rep available and there was limited information. There are people here who came to fly from Exeter because of the chaos at Bristol - and it is no better.

"I want people to be aware there is a real issue and it will continue for several days as there will be a knock-on effect. Luckily we don't have any small children with us so we can roll with the punches, up to a point."

Also struggling to board the Crete flight was Caroline and Brian Whatman, from Paignton, and their friends Julia and Kev Head who have a four-year-old daughter.

Caroline said: "We were able to go home last night but our friends were sent to a hotel in Newton Abbot where they were told they would be picked up at 3am. They couldn't get anything to eat so their girl had nothing.

"We didn't know we were meant to be getting the flight at 6.30am this morning as I only read the text at 5.30am. We had to ring our son to take us back to the airport.

The delays had a knock-on effect on other flights due to take off from Exeter Airport Credit: BPM Media

"I was so stressed out and felt physically sick because I thought we had missed our flight. I have only just come out of hospital and this was supposed to be a chance to recoup and get back on track.

"We were given £5 vouchers every so often at the airport to buy food and drinks but you couldn't get anything decent; it was just snacks. Children here were very distressed as they have not slept properly. It's absolutely dreadful and we've had to fight for information."

A family-of-six has told how they had been at Exeter Airport since 4am waiting for an Ibiza flight, and that no one was there to greet them to say the flight had been delayed. Instead, they received a text informing of them of the delay and by 7am had still not seen a TUI representative.

They say they were waiting in one room with one small kiosk serving one cup of coffee 'very slowly'. By 9am they had been told they were being transported to a hotel to put them all in a conference room. A bus then took them to Bristol Airport for a different flight.

A spokesperson for TUI said: "We would like to apologise for the inconvenience to our customers travelling from Exeter Airport to Heraklion, Rhodes and Palma, on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25th May, regarding flight delays due to technical and operational issues.

"We are doing everything we can to limit any flight delays, which can happen from time to time for various operational reasons. On the rare occasion flight delays do take place we will do everything we can to support our customers.

"Customers were offered overnight accommodation where required, and meals and refreshments.

"The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always our highest priority, and we would like to thank passengers for their patience and understanding at this time."

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