HomeNewsOlympian Steve Backley is stranded amid air traffic chaos as he joins...

Olympian Steve Backley is stranded amid air traffic chaos as he joins fellow passengers forced to catch up to three trains and the Eurostar back from Budapest to London


Passengers including Olympian Steve Backley are being forced to make extraordinary new arrangements as they scramble to get home to the UK amid the air control chaos.

As the widespread disruption rumbled on into a second day, incredible stories of desperation emerged, including how one man was forced into taking four trains to escape Germany in a rail epic that will take some 17 hours.

Elsewhere, stranded travellers reported having to pay hundreds of pounds for last-minute hotels – if they were lucky enough to get a room, with thousands of families, including some with babies, being forced to sleep on airport floors.

Others claimed they were left to ‘freeze’ overnight, with just vending machine snacks being the only food provided. 

Airlines and taxi firms were also accused of ‘cashing in’ on passengers’ misery as they had to stomach inflated prices while having to rapidly alter their plans.

Thousands of flights across Europe were grounded yesterday, after a technical glitch meant flight plans had to be input manually by controllers, causing more than a quarter of departures and arrivals to be axed in the UK.

The disruption continued into today with flights cancelled and delayed as many aircraft and crews are out of position amid warnings the chaos could run further into the week.

Mr Backley, who won silver medals for Great Britain in the 1996 and 2000 Games, was one of those caught up in the debacle after his flight back from Budapest was scrapped.

Steve Backley's crazy journey from Budapest back to his car in Gatwick following cancellations

Steve Backley’s crazy journey from Budapest back to his car in Gatwick following cancellations

Olympian Steve Backley was one trying to get home to the UK amid the air control chaos

Olympian Steve Backley was one trying to get home to the UK amid the air control chaos 

Former Olympic Sprinter Iwan Thomas was also stranded in Amsterdam and spoke to GMB about his ordeal

Former Olympic Sprinter Iwan Thomas was also stranded in Amsterdam and spoke to GMB about his ordeal

Journalist Tim Adams was also embarking on a long journey back home from Budapest

Journalist Tim Adams was also embarking on a long journey back home from Budapest

Mary Byrne, pictured with Alex Ogden and Eiisha Mullaney was told her flight to Corfu was cancelled at the last minute

Mary Byrne, pictured with Alex Ogden and Eiisha Mullaney was told her flight to Corfu was cancelled at the last minute

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale (pictured with Barbara and Chris Rowley), was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale (pictured with Barbara and Chris Rowley), was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight

He posted online his journey back, telling fans: ‘Went to fly home, sat on a plane for six hours, got kicked off and then told we were going to have a two-day delay.

‘I’m now at a Budapest train station on a very long journey I think it’s a 24-hour journey home and that’s just to London then I’ve got to get my car from Gatwick.’

Later as he Sopron, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, he posted another video revealing he had run into difficulties.

He said: ‘Interesting twist on this stopover because I’ve got a three hour gap and they’ve closed the train station and they won’t let me inside.

‘The police are here kicking some local tramps from the front of the station. It’s 1am and I’ve got a train at 4am, not sure what the options are from here.’

He then updated from Vienna that was going to take him to Frankfurt then to Brussels, adding: ‘I’ve broken the back of it now.’ 

There were other harrowing stories of travel misery pouring out of European airports paralysed by the system failure.

The BBC’s correspondent Jon Donnison said: ‘One man told us coming back from Munich he was going to take three trains and get the Eurostar over to Britain.

‘He wouldn’t be back until Wednesday morning after a 17 hour journey from just Munich. It’s a pretty bad situation.’

Katrina Harrison and her family – including one-year-old twin grandchildren – spent the night at Leeds Bradford Airport after their flight to Antalya was cancelled on Monday afternoon.

Ms Harrison, from Stockton-on-Tees, said: ‘We were given a bottle of water, a KitKat and a packet of crisps but no proper food. Apparently some people have got vouchers but we haven’t been given any.

‘All the shops sold out of food and drink last night. We weren’t given a blanket, we’ve been absolutely freezing.

‘There were no hotels to stay in, we couldn’t get the car out of the car park.

‘We haven’t slept, we tried to sleep on the floor but couldn’t. Luckily the children could sleep in the pram.

‘The holiday was supposed to be a family celebration of a few things. We’ve spent £12,000 on it and we’ve been treated like muck.

‘We’re hoping to get on a flight tonight but if it doesn’t happen tonight we’ll have to go home. We can’t keep sitting here with the babies.’

TV presenter Ore Oduba and his wife Portia were also among those stranded after their flights home from Greece were cancelled.

The couple, who share young children Roman and Genie, were expecting to travel back to London Gatwick Airport on Monday. However, their flights were called off following a technical fault in the UK’s air traffic control (ATC) system.

Sharing a picture of her children looking out at stationary easyJet planes from the airport, Portia wrote on Instagram: ‘Currently ‘stranded’ in Greece with no flight home. No nappies and no clean knickers.

‘@easyjet have cancelled all flights leaving till Sunday. But it’s ok. They’ve offered us a voucher for the next time we fly. Maybe we can fly home on that, magic carpet style.’

She added: ‘I better sharpen up on my Greek as at this rate we are going to become citizens.’

A screenshot shows the lack of flights available to passengers still stranded in Palma

A screenshot shows the lack of flights available to passengers still stranded in Palma

Sharing a picture of her children looking out at stationary easyJet planes from the airport, TV presenter Ore Oduba's wife Portia wrote on Instagram: 'Currently 'stranded' in Greece with no flight home. No nappies and no clean knickers'

Sharing a picture of her children looking out at stationary easyJet planes from the airport, TV presenter Ore Oduba’s wife Portia wrote on Instagram: ‘Currently ‘stranded’ in Greece with no flight home. No nappies and no clean knickers’

It comes after the influencer shared a video on her Instagram story on Tuesday morning, telling fans the family were down to their 'last three nappies' as they attempted to organise different travel arrangements

It comes after the influencer shared a video on her Instagram story on Tuesday morning, telling fans the family were down to their ‘last three nappies’ as they attempted to organise different travel arrangements

Upon first hearing their flights had been cancelled, Portia shared a picture with her two children, writing: 'These two as you can imagine were not playing ball earlier whilst we tried to arrange another room.. etc at our hotel. How do kids just know when to kick up?!'

Upon first hearing their flights had been cancelled, Portia shared a picture with her two children, writing: ‘These two as you can imagine were not playing ball earlier whilst we tried to arrange another room.. etc at our hotel. How do kids just know when to kick up?!’

Portia said the family currently has 'no way of getting home' as thousands of passengers were also affected by the disruption, which began on Monday

Portia said the family currently has ‘no way of getting home’ as thousands of passengers were also affected by the disruption, which began on Monday

Stranded travellers reported having to pay hundreds of pounds for last-minute hotels - if they were lucky enough to get a room, with thousands of families, including some with babies, being forced to sleep on airport floors

Stranded travellers reported having to pay hundreds of pounds for last-minute hotels – if they were lucky enough to get a room, with thousands of families, including some with babies, being forced to sleep on airport floors

It comes after the influencer shared a video on her Instagram story on Tuesday morning, telling fans the family were down to their ‘last three nappies’ as they attempted to organise different travel arrangements.

‘The next available flight from where we’re staying back to London Gatwick isn’t until Sunday I believe so we’re trying to find an alternative flight, potentially trying to get to another island and fly with a different airline who’s flights are all still leaving,’ Portia said.

Upon first hearing their flights had been cancelled, Portia shared a picture with her two children, writing: ‘These two as you can imagine were not playing ball earlier whilst we tried to arrange another room.. etc at our hotel. How do kids just know when to kick up?!

‘It’s all been quite stressful as you can imagine – as it will be for many, many people this week. We do however have an amazing travel rep who is trying her very best to get us home!

‘Also. The kids have no clean clothes left and I don’t have any clean knicks… so that’s great. Sink washes all round.’

Portia said the family currently has ‘no way of getting home’ as thousands of passengers were also affected by the disruption, which began on Monday.

It comes as holidaymakers arriving at Manchester Airport today revealed how they were only told their flight had been cancelled at the boarding gate.

Mental health worker Elisha Mullaney had booked a flight to Corfu with Jet2.

The 41-year-old said: ‘I received a text from Jet2 telling me to arrive as normal. We checked in our bags and went through security only to be told at the gate it was one of five flights to be cancelled.

‘It is very annoying and they must have known well in advance. It’s my son’s 16th birthday today, which makes it worse.

‘I tried to find alternative flights so we could still go but it was going to cost us £600 a ticket. The flight price had increased so much.

‘I’m just hoping we will get our money back and we can find something else quickly.’

Delays at Edinburgh Airport this morning due to the air traffic control fault yesterday morning

Delays at Edinburgh Airport this morning due to the air traffic control fault yesterday morning

Passengers are pictured at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, the morning after an air traffic control fault caused significant flight delays and cancellations

Passengers are pictured at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, the morning after an air traffic control fault caused significant flight delays and cancellations

Elisha, from Manchester, was going on a week’s holiday with her son Alex Ogden.

Mary Byrne, who was also on the same flight, said: ‘I don’t understand why Jet2 can’t just delay the flight.

‘They made us go all the way through the checking in process knowing they was no chance of us boarding and departing.

‘I thought everything with air traffic control would have been sorted by now. We are really disappointed.’

Kirstie Rowley, 52, a payroll and finance officer from Rochdale, was also travelling to Corfu on the 7.30am flight.

She said: ‘We expected to be delayed with what we had seen on the news but we did think we would get away.

‘We had checked in, found ourselves a comfortable spot to wait and got a round of drinks. Then we were told the flight had been cancelled.

‘I’m going to have to go back into work tomorrow because if I don’t I won’t have enough days left to take later. I’ve already lost one day.

‘We were supposed to be meeting friends out in Corfu so I’m going to have to let them know.

‘We are going to try to get out later in the week and extend the holiday if the hotel is available.’

Barbara Rowley, who is retired and in her 70s, said: ‘We’ve just tried to get a taxi home and were told it would cost £87. Only a few hours ago it was £40.

‘It is wrong. Everyone is trying to make a quick buck and cash in on what is happening. I am fed up and have been looking forward to this holiday.’

Chris Rowley, 51, a sheet metal worker, said: ‘It is always chaos over the bank holiday weekend. Something always seems to happen to cause delays and cancellations.

‘I am gutted because I’ve worked seven days a week for the past two weeks to get in front with my work because I knew I was going away.

‘Why did they make us go through security if they were just going to cancel the flight?

‘We have spent a lot of money already and all we have done is spend a few hours in the airport. I just hope we can fly out later in the week.’

Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport's Terminal Two this morning

Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two this morning

Passengers queue up at 3.48am this morning at Manchester Airport's Terminal One

Passengers queue up at 3.48am this morning at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

Scenes at Manchester Airport early this morning as queues build up at Terminal One

Scenes at Manchester Airport early this morning as queues build up at Terminal One

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Passengers queue for check-in in the car park at Manchester Airport's Terminal One

Passengers queue for check-in in the car park at Manchester Airport’s Terminal One 

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

Passengers stranded overnight at London Gatwick Airport are pictured this morning

At Heathrow, passengers revealed how they had to make last minute changes to their travel plans following the air traffic control chaos.

Steven Williams, 26 said that he was initially due to fly to Brussels on Sunday from Stansted on a budget airline.

But after the flight was cancelled, he travelled down to London, had to stay overnight in a hotel and then booked on Brussels Airline.

He said: ‘It’s cost me another £400 for the hotel and new flight but there’s not much I can do about it because I have to be at work this evening. I was only on a short visit to the UK and I wish I hadn’t come.

‘I don’t understand how, in this day and age, the air traffic IT system could collapse like this? It’s a joke and it’s ruined things for a lot of us.’

Ray Edwards, 58 from Essex had his flight to Denver cancelled yesterday.

He said: ‘I had to book a hotel near Heathrow but luckily my flight is going out today. I don’t understand why there’s always some kind of travel chaos in Britain when there’s a bank holiday?

‘The hotels around the airport put their prices up and I hope the airline are going to refund me because it wasn’t cheap.’

Several passengers at East Midlands Airport booked overnight hotel stays at short notice due to the air traffic control disruption, in the hope they can depart on Tuesday.

Michael and Chloe Kennedy, from Meath in the Republic of Ireland, were due to fly home on Monday after attending a festival but their flight cancellation meant they have had to take unpaid leave to cover the extra day and do not know whether they will be compensated.

Mr Kennedy said: ‘We queued for ages to leave our bags and just as we got to the front it was on our phones that the flight was cancelled.

‘It was chaotic, (staff) were trying their best in there but a lot of people were not happy.

‘Eventually we just left and booked a space in a hotel.’

Mrs Kennedy added: ‘Our flight was at 8pm and we were not told until 6.30pm, but we were lucky that we had not put our bag through security as some people were not allowed back through because of the risk, staff said.

‘They had to return duty free items and things, it was all a bit mad.’

Angela Sykes, from Nottingham, is due to travel on the 11.25am Ryanair flight to Dublin on Tuesday, which remains scheduled to depart on time, with her family for four days.

She said: ‘The first we heard about the issues was this morning when we put the radio on.

‘It’s our first holiday since November – it means we’ll be sat in the airport a little bit but I don’t care, I’m going away.

‘We heard the radio and said, ‘Oh well, we will go the airport and if we get there, we get there’ – we like to go with the flow.

‘There is nothing to worry about on the app but we will soon find out,’ she added.

Staff at Heathrow revealed that it was less chaotic than Monday as passengers had been told to check if their flights were departing before going to the airport.

One family of five from Manchester, stranded in Paris, revealed how it wasn’t just flights that were booked up, but they were unable to get on Eurostar or even ferry services from Calais to return home.

Instead, they ended up paying £300 to hire a car and drive three hours to Caen on Monday night, staying in a £150 hotel, before boarding a ferry crossing back to the UK today.

Jo Winter told MailOnline: ‘Honestly it has been a nightmare and it’s still not over as once on ferry tomorrow we have somehow got to figure out how to get from Portsmouth to Manchester.

‘This is our first abroad trip in four years and what was a lovely four day trip to Paris and Disneyland has ended in a extremely stressful situation.

‘Although not easyJet’s fault I will have my doubts to ever use them again as they provided no help or assistance – the ground staff just didn’t want to know.’

Former Olympic Sprinter Iwan Thomas was also stranded in Amsterdam and spoke to GMB about his ordeal.

He said: ‘I estimate I’ve spent about a thousand pounds, what with getting a Eurostar ticket, you know the prices seem to be through the roof, and accommodation for one, possibly two nights.

‘As you said there are probably people travelling back for a funeral or travelling with elderly relatives or to a wedding so I can’t really complain.

‘It was heartbreaking though because my boy Teddy burst into tears when I told him I won’t be home maybe for two more nights.

‘He’s probably more tearful because he knows I bought him some Lego. My suitcases are somewhere in transit so I don’t know when I am going to get those back.’

It came as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said today that Transport Secretary Mark Harper would be talking to airlines about their responsibilities to passengers hit by air traffic control disruption.

He told broadcasters: ‘I know people will be enormously frustrated by the disruption that’s impacting them.

‘Thankfully things like this are rare and the issue itself was fixed in a matter of hours, but the disruption obviously is continuing and will last for a little while longer.

‘The Transport Secretary is in constant dialogue with all the industry participants, he will be talking to airlines specifically later today and making sure that they support passengers to get home as quickly as possible.’

He said passengers had rights with regards to accommodation and alternative flights and Mr Harper would be making sure airlines ‘honour those obligations’.



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