Family of seven 'like battery hens' at packed Belfast airport amid flight delay 'shambles'

Colin Cunningham's young son forced to sleep on hard metal chairs at the airport
-Credit: (Image: Colin Cunningham)

A father-of-five from Co Down has described an hours-long ordeal at Belfast International Airport where he and his family were "hemmed in" like "battery hens" after their flight to Salou was hit by a series of delays.

Colin Cunningham, from Ballynahinch, arrived at the airport with his wife and children at 3am on Thursday for their 6am flight, only for it to be repeatedly hit by delays.

Speaking to Belfast Live on Thursday afternoon after the family of seven spent more than 12 hours stuck in the airport, Mr Cunningham said: "It's just a shambles. We feel like battery hens hemmed in. It's at full capacity, I've never seen anything like it."

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He continued: "We're a family of seven, my wife and I and the five children - the youngest is two, then three, five, six and twelve. It's shocking. You're being left to try and get them to sleep on those metal chairs. It's just unacceptable in this day and age.

"I call the international airport the henhouse, because we feel like battery hens hemmed in. It's at full capacity, I've never seen anything like it. We arrived here at five minutes to three and the flight has been delayed, every hour they're pushing it back and pushing it back.

"There's a TUI rep who has landed here in the last hour. He claims there may be a plane coming from Manchester or Gatwick to pick us up, but it's not a definitive answer."

The stressed out dad added: "We are going away for a week, to Salou. The flight was scheduled for six AM. We came from Ballynahinch, so we all set off this morning at one o'clock, with two cars. It's just a shambles. The worst part of it is nobody seems able to give us proper information, it's a maybe this or a maybe that.

"There are almost 200 passengers on our flight, and there is a TUI flight that was going to Cyprus which was supposed to take off at two o'clock and it's now cancelled as well - another 200 passengers on that. It's just gone from bad to worse.

"It's a package holiday through TUI and we've lost out on a day so far. There's no guarantee we're going to get away at this stage, it's just so uncertain at the moment."

Asked what assistance TUI has offered so far, he said: "They have provided a seven pound voucher, that was the first thing they did, but seven pounds wouldn't get you a bottle of water and a mars bar in this place. We went down there to Burger King and it was £70 for all seven of us.

"After a while they gave us £30 each to buy food and refreshments, which is fine, but you'd much rather be on your holiday than dealing with this. They're telling us there's a software problem with the aircraft, that's as much information as we're getting out of them."

TUI has been approached for comment.

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