Michelle Donohue, 32, husband Robert and their 12-year-old son were told they couldn’t take their seats on the Ryanair plane for Rome even though it returned to the runway due to a medical emergency on Tuesday morning. Although the family arrived very early at the airport, they faced “nightmare” chaos in security and had to queue for hours.
Staff opened new lanes in security but Michelle says “people started pushing past people”.
The mum added: “It was getting closer and closer to the time but I could see where you put all your stuff on the trays so all we needed to do now was get through there – but it stopped again. Apparently people were over pilling trays. and stopping the whole conveyor belt.
“We were about ten people away from the tray bit – and this was at five to seven. [20 minutes before their flight] – and the radio was going on one of the staff members ‘anybody whose got a flights at quarter past seven needs to come through now’. But he couldn’t hear it so I just shouted out to him to say excuse me they’re calling for the quarter past seven flight.
“I showed him my boarding pass and he let us through and then we into another queue just for the trays so that was four people deep and then there was four lines for one. People were pushing past and this little old man got swung forward onto the trays; my poor son was panicking.”
The family got through security at 7.10am, just five minutes before their flight to Italy was due to depart, and the gate was closed, reports Lancs Live.
Staff has assured the family, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, the flight crews knew what was going on and the plane wouldn’t leave without them.
However, Michelle, Robert, their son and around 20 other tourists were told they couldn’t board the plane.
Michelle said: “They said to us, the plane won’t let you on, it’s gone, that gate closed at quarter to seven but we were like, ‘we’ve been here four and half hours’. They said ‘I know. , but it’s not Ryanair’s fault’. More people turned up and it turns out there were 20 of us that were stuck in that queue.”
Michelle was then told to wait 30 minutes with staff attempting to secure her family a flight to Milan and coach trip to Rome.
“She went come back here for eight o’clock, so we went and got a drink, rang our family members and went back ten minutes later. She didn’t come back,” the mother said.
Due to the medical emergency with a passenger on what should have been their flight, the group watched as their plane arrived back at Manchester Airport.
Thinking they would be able to be let on, Michelle and family were disappointed once again as they were told the pilot was still not allowing them come on due to the numbers and baggage they had already sorted.
“They took everybody off that flight so they could deal with somebody and so we said, can we get on it now, we’re here. Despite it not being our fault and she said no I’ve already spoken to the pilot and he won’t let you on, he’s already got his numbers,” she said.
The flight didn’t take off again until 9.11am with the family and the rest of the group unable to take their seats on the aircraft. Instead, they were directed to baggage claim where another traumatic experience awaited.
After waiting another 20 minutes to be taken to baggage, Michelle said they saw “hundreds and hundreds of other people’s bags” left lying around – including some with flight tags from last Friday (April 1). She was then told by a member of staff that the whereabouts of their bags were unknown.
“He was in shock. He said ‘I don’t know where your bags are, I haven’t been told anything’,” she said. Another 30 minutes went by before the staff member returned and confirmed their bags were on the way back to them.
“It was just an absolute nightmare. You can see the staff are overworked and doing two or three jobs at the same time and there were some that when they were delegated one job, they were fine and they were happy and they could do it well . But at one point, a fella was letting people through and he got told off by another member of staff to stop letting people through and he said I’ve got loads of people trying to get out and she said I’ve got loads of people over here.
“It’s traumatic, it’s put me off going to that airport and I feel like this is going to be going on for a long time, it’s not an easy fix this. There was people collapsing, some girl getting medical assistance and the group we were with, they were so upset- there were Italian family members trying to get back home.”
Michelle and her husband paid £1500 for the flights and while they were able to get refunds to the activities booked in Rome her travel insurance won’t be able to pay out for the flight due to the unprecedented circumstances of why she missed the flight. Instead, it is now up to her to complete a complaints form and contact Manchester Airport.
The hub, also a base for easyJet UK and Jet2.com, has been plagued with by staff shortages recently, and passengers have complained about massive delays in both departures and arrivals.
Queues for one departure terminal snaked as far as a car park on one occasion last month.
A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said: “We apologise to passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport in recent days has fallen short of the standard they expected. Our industry is facing challenges in scaling operations back up very quickly after the removal of Covid restrictions, which have done immense damage to our sector over the past two years.
“We are actively recruiting for hundreds of new roles in areas including security, but are advising passengers that due to a shortage of staff, they may have to wait for longer than they are used to in the coming weeks, and that they should arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.
“We understand that airlines and third-party service providers on our site are facing similar challenges and are working with them to provide the best possible experience that we can in the circumstances.”
LancsLive approached and Ryanair for comment but received no response prior to publication.