Nearly 200 Tui holidaymakers who were due to land back from Greece around midnight on Saturday instead spent the night trying to sleep on the floor of a hotel on the island of Rhodes after the flight was abruptly delayed overnight.
The holiday company told passengers: “We apologise sincerely for the disappointment this may cause.”
Flight TOM6625 was due to depart from Rhodes to Bournemouth at 9.55pm on Saturday and was scheduled to arrive at the Dorset airport at 12.05am.
But the outbound flight was over two hours late, and did not arrive at the Greek island until after 11pm.
Because the crew would have exceeded their permitted working hours, the flight was grounded shortly after at midnight, local time. It finally took off 17 hours late.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules, during disruption airlines are required to provide hotel accommodation if necessary.
But Tui told the exhausted travellers: “Unfortunately, due to lack of availability in the area, we have not been able to find hotel rooms for you. We have been able to arrange for you to stay at the lobby of the Rodos Palace.”
This property is between Rhodes Town and the island’s airport. It tells prospective guests: “In this five-star hotel, sheer happiness is not just a line. It is the way you feel, surrounded by dream material and surprising every sense over and over.”
Passengers sought to bed down using cushions in the lobby of the property. At least one family decided to remain at the airport terminal.
Tui also told customers: “Alternatively, you may wish to find your own accommodation and will be entitled to claim €180 per household.”
The holiday company is not allowed under passengers’ rights rules to cap the cost of a hotel.
If passengers are not provided with rooms, they cannot claim for the inconvenience.
In the letter to passengers, the holiday company blamed the delay on “a combination of significant operation disruptions and the closure of Bournemouth airport”.
The letter concluded: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
A spokesperson for Tui said: “We fully understand the frustration of customers travelling from Rhodes to Bournemouth on 13 August.
“Due to a technical issue which needed repair delaying the aircraft’s outbound flight from Bournemouth to Rhodes, crew were unfortunately then outside of their regulated maximum working hours to operate the inbound flight.
“Regrettably, we had to delay the flight overnight in Rhodes as a result.
“We communicated with customers throughout. They were provided with an alternative rest location, a contribution to cover accommodation if customers wished to source this themselves, welfare vouchers and a goodwill gesture.”
The rescheduled flight left Rhodes on Sunday afternoon and finally landed back in Bournemouth just after 5pm – meaning that passengers were 17 hours late.
Tui told the people who were stranded that they will each be able to claim £350 in compensation for the disruption.
They have also been offered a discount of £150 on a future holiday.
Last week Tui blamed “disruptions in air traffic” for another quarterly loss. Europe’s biggest holiday company said “additional costs caused by the irregularities, particularly in British air traffic” in May and June had cost it €75m (£64m).