A Leeds woman who was left stranded at a major European airport for more than 17 hours after a fuel pump breakdown grounded flights has described how she was forced to sleep behind the check-in desk with no access to food, water or medication.
Ella Sykes, 27, from Methley, said the scene in the terminal was “absolute carnage” when she and a friend arrived at Lisbon airport at 2pm for a 5.30pm Ryanair flight to Manchester yesterday after a short break in the Portuguese capital.
She described how people were forced to sleep on the floor and even baggage conveyors after the system failure on Wednesday left thousands of people unable to get home.
Ryanair was among the airlines affected, along with the Portuguese national carrier TAP, which was warning customers that delays would continue today.
Miss Sykes, who works as an account director at Prohibition PR, said: “We have been stranded here all night.
“It’s 17 hours now and we still haven’t had any information from Ryanair. We have given up on the queues. We’ve booked a flight from Faro tomorrow morning.
“We are exhausted and we’ve had to fork out for accommodation overnight as well. And I was meant to be at work this morning.”
She also told of how she had to fight to get access to her anti-anxiety medication and wait for the shops to close before water was handed out, which was a problem as many tourists had spent all their Euros so had to wait hours until they were able to have a drink.
She said Portuguese police and airport staff were “treating us like animals” as they were “herded” around the airport.
She said the only information she had received about what was happening had come from the media, adding: “The airport was absolute carnage. There were far too many people in the departure lounge so they stopped letting people in.”
Other travellers took to social media to vent their frustration.
Jonathan Millar, from London, said on Wednesday night: “Lisbon airport...what a mess. No fuel, no flights. Tracker boards haven’t been updated since 2pm. Utter chaos.”
On its Facebook page, the airport said there had been problems with the supply of fuel to aircraft, but it hoped flights would return to normal today.
Spaniard Javier Rayon wrote: “There are thousands of abandoned users in the airport, with no food, no water, no options to sleep and no options to flight (sic) even tomorrow. Disastrous management of the situation.”
Miss Sykes is now staying in a hotel in Faro, where she will spend the night before flying home in the morning.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “Due to a fuelling system outage at Lisbon Airport last night, we regret that we were forced to cancel a number of flights to/from Lisbon.
“All affected customers were provided with refreshment and accommodation vouchers, were contacted by email and SMS text message and advised of their options of a full refund, a free transfer onto the next available flight, or a free transfer onto an alternative flight route, in full compliance with EU261 legislation. Ryanair sincerely apologised to all customers affected by this disruption, which was entirely beyond our control.”
However, Miss Sykes described the response as “shocking”.
She said: “The communication was totally sporadic at best. I personally didn’t receive any form of update. The flight was cancelled on the screen, then removed completely. Then people mentioned they had emails saying it was delayed until 8.30pm and then that we’d arrive home at 3.45am and the flight was cancelled completely without a tannoy announcement and just word of mouth. There were three members of staff on the desk and the queue took a total of approximately 10 hours before we gave up.”