Terminally-ill Wells man forced to sleep on airport floor after easyJet flight cancelled
A terminally-ill man had to sleep on an airport floor after his flight home was cancelled.
Andy Blackwill, 55, lives with pancreatic cancer and flew to Faro with his wife Tina earlier this month, for what may have been their last holiday together.
After an enjoyable mini-break spent exploring coves and beaches in the Algarve, the Wells couple headed to the airport on Monday 15 May to board their flight home.
Tina, 53, said: "On the last night of the holiday, Andy was really struggling with pain in his abdomen, back and hips, and he had to take the extra pain medication he’d packed.
"However, he made sure he still had enough to get home, and to last him into the next morning, when I could go to the chemist and pick up some more."
She and Andy made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare for their 9.55pm flight back to Bristol.
So they were disappointed to read on the departures board that it had been delayed by half an hour.
"We thought ‘okay that’s a bit of a pain in the bum, but no big deal’," Tina explained.
However, around 30 minutes later, the board informed them that the flight was now delayed by two hours.
"At that point, we thought ‘oh no, this is going to be miserable’. Andy gets quite uncomfortable sitting on rock-hard chairs but luckily we were able to sit in one of the coffee shops.
"Then we got a notification that our flight was cancelled. People were running around the departure lounge and we were told to go to one of the gates for more information."
When Tina and Andy reached the gate, she approached a member of easyJet ground staff to explain Andy's condition to them.
"I went straight up to tell him what was going on and he said ‘just wait a minute’ and I said ‘no, my husband has terminal pancreatic cancer and we need to get back home by tomorrow morning by the latest’ and he just kind of fobbed me off.
"He read out a thing saying the flight had been cancelled by Air Traffic Control. He was speaking really quietly and nobody could hear what he was saying
"He said easyJet was going to provide a hotel and to go back through passport control. I went up to him again and he said there was nothing he could do," Tina explained.
She added that the next easyJet flight back to Bristol was not until 2.30pm the next day, which would not give her enough time to get to the chemist before it closed.
"I told the easyJet man this and he directed me to the hospital down the road and said we might be able to get Andy’s medication there, and I said ‘I doubt it, because it’s hard to find even in the UK’.
"We had to go back through passport control and stand in that big long queue and while we were queuing I booked us on the Ryanair flight to Newquay at 6am the next morning," Tina said.
When all the passengers from the cancelled flight had gone back through passport control, the easyJet representative provided another update.
"This little man came up again and we still couldn’t hear him, but word got round that easyJet had supplied a hotel and a coach.
"20 minutes later he came back out and said we were going to have to get a taxi to the hotel - at our own expense.
"Not only that, but there were about 200 passengers on the plane and only 85 rooms.
"By that point, Andy was deteriorating fast and he was just sitting on the floor.
"I said ‘look, for a 6am flight we would need to be back here at 4am, so we would have maybe two hours’ sleep by the time we got to the hotel," Tina explained.
She and Andy decided to stay at the airport overnight and they headed off to find somewhere comfortable to lie down.
Tina said: "Andy found some comfortable seats in the Costa Coffee, which was all shut and dark. They were like long benches and there were some other people there just getting comfortable.
"There were around four of us there, just lying quietly not causing any harm, and then this security man came up and he said ‘you cannot sleep here’ and we just sort of didn’t say anything.
"Then four security men came back and said we had to go and I said ‘my husband has terminal cancer, can’t you just let us be comfortable?’
"They had taken the metal chairs away so we had to lie on the floor for about an hour and a half. Andy was just staring at the floor and his pain was really starting to kick in."
When 4am came, Tina and Andy checked in for their Ryanair flight and at 6am they flew to Newquay.
"Andy was in pain the whole way back sitting bolt upright on the plane. When we landed in Newquay, we got taxi to the train station, then got two trains to Taunton then Castle Cary, then a taxi to Wells," Tina said.
Overall, the return journey cost her an extra £200 - but the toll it took on Andy's health was considerable, Tina explained.
"By the time we got back to Wells it was about 3.30pm or 4pm and Andy couldn’t speak he was so exhausted.
"I put him on the sofa and went to the doctor’s then the chemist. I got there at 6.20pm, 10 minutes before closing," Tina said.
However, despite receiving more liquid opioid medication to lessen his pain, Andy was "past the point of no return", she added.
"He had just had such a traumatic time that we just could not get on top of the pain and the next day he had to go into hospital.
"He was in a right state, just awful. He has had bad periods before and he has always come back up again, but this time is definitely different.
"The nurses have said it could be two or three weeks," Tina said.
After making her husband comfortable, she went on the easyJet website to apply for compensation for the cancelled flight.
"It’s not about the money, it’s about the complete lack of empathy we experienced.
"I went on easyJet to fill out a form and at the bottom I had to tick a box to say I accepted that we wouldn’t get a full refund.
"I didn't agree with that and obviously I didn't want to tick it but I had to, to be able to submit the form.
"Then about an hour later I got an email back to say that easyJet wouldn’t cover any expenses," Tina said.
ITV West Country approached easyJet for comment on Tina and Andy's case.
The airline explained that the reason for the flight delay was related to air traffic control restrictions, which are outside easyJet's control, and therefore compensation was not due.
However, it added that this is separate for any expenses customers may incur as a result of a delay and so they would be reimbursing the couple for those.
A spokesman said: "We are very sorry to hear about Mr and Mrs Blackwill’s circumstances and for the difficulty they experienced on their journey home from Faro.
"Their flight was unfortunately delayed overnight as a result of air traffic control restrictions caused by industrial action by French air traffic controllers, which led to the crew reaching their safety regulated operating hours.
“The safety and well-being of our customers is always our highest priority and while this was outside of our control, we always look to ensure our customers are taken care of and while we secured hotel accommodation for all passengers on the flight, we understand that having booked a new early morning flight with another airline, the couple decided to stay in the airport instead of the hotel.
"We are in touch with the family to apologise for their experience at the airport which we are looking into with our ground handling provider at Faro and we are reimbursing them for their alternative return flight as a gesture of goodwill along with any other expenses incurred."
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