Tui passengers left to sleep at Las Palmas airport ‘without blankets, food and water’

Simon Calder
Bedding down: the scene from Las Palmas airport where stranded Tui passengers spent another night: Anonymous

“Families with babies sleeping on the floor, elderly passengers left in wheelchairs” – one passenger has given a graphic account of a night spent at Las Palmas airport after Tui once again declined to provide hotel rooms for stranded passengers.

“They promised us blankets, food and water,” said the father-of-two, who has been waiting for a flight home from Gran Canaria since Saturday. “Nothing materialised.”

Airports across the Canary Islands were intermittently closed at the weekend because of a severe dust storm blowing in from the Sahara.

European air passengers’ rights rules state that any airline cancelling a flight must provide hotels and meals, whatever the cause of the delay.

But thousands of passengers – booked with Tui and other airlines – were forced to sleep at the airport on Saturday and Sunday night.

Much of the backlog was cleared on Monday, but not everyone was so fortunate.

Two planeloads of Tui passengers were taken to Las Palmas airport in the hope that they could fly to Cardiff and Manchester.

The aircraft arrived, but the flight crew were unable to complete the return legs within their legal maximum times.

The pilots and cabin crew were taken to hotels to rest until the new scheduled flight time on Tuesday afternoon. But the passengers were left to fend for themselves.

“We have tried everything to get Tui to do the right thing and provide hotels,” one parent said. “They tell us there aren’t any. They have given no vouchers. There is no one here to talk to as the reps have all gone home."

Many passengers expressed their upset on social media.

Adriana Smith tweeted a picture, saying: "This is how my child is sleeping tonight at Gran Canaria airport. Not due to weather but because the pilot run out of flying hours.

“No Tui rep in sight. If Tui have a duty to offer accommodation, I assume this doesn’t mean kipping at the airport with no blankets, etc.

“There are elderly, infirm and children here; but no support from Tui.”

The decision not to provide hotel accommodation has saved the holiday company tens of thousands of pounds.

The Independent asked Tui why it had not met its obligation to care for passengers.

The firm did not respond to this question, but instead a spokesperson said: “We would like to sincerely apologise to our customers whose flights were disrupted by adverse and changeable weather conditions in the Canary Islands over the weekend.

“The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority and we’re working tirelessly to get everyone to their destination as quickly as possible.

“Following an improvement in the weather overnight, all flights scheduled to depart to the Canary Islands today will be operating as planned.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused and would like to thank our customers for their co-operation and patience.”

As the latest delays were operational rather than weather-related, The Independent asked Tui if it would pay each passenger €400 as the rules require.

The spokesperson said only: “We will in contact with customers to provide them with some compensation.”

A passenger who wanted to remain anonymous said: “Doesn’t really cut it for the stress and anxiety this has caused us all. Tui have abandoned us when it really mattered.”

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