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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Flight chaos: What happened to you?
Tourists heading to and from Spain's Balearic islands are facing waits of many hours at airports because of a strike by Spanish coach drivers.
Flights to Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza from airports including Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow are severely delayed - in some cases for more than 30 hours.
Thousands of British, German and Scandinavian holidaymakers trying to get home have also had to camp out at Spanish airports, waiting for a flight.
Have you or someone you know been caught up in the chaos? How delayed was the flight?
What could airports do to cope with such problems? What did you do to keep your sanity while you waited?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Hey everyone, stop going on shoddy tour operator holidays. Arrange it yourself and save loads of money. We've just come back from the Algarve. We drove there and back through France and Spain. It took 3 days to get there as we stopped off every 2/3 hours to have drink /food and a look around/ swim in the sea. You get to see a heck of a lot more places too. We booked our hotel on the internet and arranged car cover with a French version of the AA who charged us only £56 for total travel cover.
So no waiting at airports, no coaches, no enforced walks, no taxis and no grumpy people. What a fab holiday
I was trapped in the departure lounge at Mahon for 23 hours. This had very little to do with the strike, it had more to do with the incompetence of JMC.
We recently returned from two weeks in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides). No foot-and-mouth restrictions, very friendly locals, clean white deserted beaches as scenic as those in the Caribbean, islands in abundance, and ferry and bus services that connected. Our only delay in 2 weeks was for 20 minutes as the bus driver stopped to let people take pictures of golden sand beaches on Harris. So - why go to the Med?
One of the effects of low price holidays is that the costs have to be kept low. So very little money of the price of a package tour goes to the coach firms let alone the coach drivers, who may have families and do like to eat etc. A very small increase on the price of a holiday, say of about £2 a head, if passed on to the coach drivers would easily resolve the situation. Unfortunately this strike has been caused by the desire of people for cheap holidays without taking into account that this often means people doing jobs for low wages, and let's be honest who can expect anybody to put up with that? In the end you get what you pay for, if you want guaranteed service from motivated people, you have to pay for it.
Paul Jones, Wales
Why stick at Spain? If you want Spanish try Mexico, if you want adventure try south-east Asia, if you want to both save money and support our beleaguered tourist industry, you could always stay in the UK. If however you want underage nightclubs, dodgy 'English' food, the Costa-del-Concrete, well ... and has there ever been a time when flights regularly get out to Spain on time? Don't get shocked and upset when things go wrong!
Perhaps next season UK tourists should simply boycott the Balearics. Give those on strike a season with no paying customers and perhaps they'll not be in such a hurry to ruin holidays for those paying their wages.
Andy Cotgreave, UK
I don't know why everybody is trying to make us look bad, it is just a strike (even if I don't agree with it) You don't have strikes? They are doing it because of something, not just for fun. Let's face the problems or do you mean that in the holiday destinations we don't have strike chances? Do I have to say of all my experiences in English airports? What about the French controllers? Everybody has right to strike. It looks like some people are interested in making this strike looks criminal. Anyway have a good time if you come here.
I had a barbecue in my back garden and invited some friends over to enjoy the searing heat in that well-known sunspot called London. I don't understand why people take small kids to places like Ibiza - a small child will be hard pressed to tell the difference between Ibiza and Bournemouth in the summer, you don't have to change your currency and even the shambles that is our rail system has to be better than flight delays and European industrial inaction. I think my next "hot and sunny" holiday will have to be Florida.
Ben, Paris, France (British)
In answer to the question regarding children not being in school. Scotland has already finished for the summer. Also parents can withdraw their children for up to 10 days in any one school year for holidays. They are cheaper now than in August. English schools finish in one or two weeks time, depending on location, and the coach drivers will no doubt strike again then.
I passed through Palma airport on Saturday. We had to share a taxi to the airport (no hardship) and our flight was delayed by one hour. Our tour rep was very helpful, kept us informed at all times, and made all the arrangements for us. We took food and drink to the airport in case. We had no trouble finding seats.
Beautiful beaches are not the only reasons for going to Mallorca, I would go again next week if I could!
The coach drivers' strike and passivity of the authorities gave a terrible and well deserved image of Spain. But, what about German and English tourists, just willing to get drunk as soon as possible in one of the most impressive ecologic paradises in Europe (often drunk before landing in Majorca)
We're going on a farm holiday in the UK - and I have to say I find it very hard to feel much sympathy for the Majorca-bound masses. As long as they are adequately insured, they'll be fine - unlike the owners of holiday accommodation in the UK. So come on, when you get back from your bus trip from hell, call the tourist board and get one of the late-booking bargains available at home!
I don't understand the people supporting the coach drivers - hardly brain surgeons are they! If they want more money then maybe they should do some exams and get a better job - otherwise be quiet and drive!
I want to know why we are even considering joining Europe at all. If it's not the Spanish bus drivers it's the French lorry drivers. We should all head West for our holidays and Tony Blair should forget Europe once and for all.
According to one newspaper the drivers are already paid £500 per week and were offered a 17% rise, is this true or merely tabloid jingoism?
Whilst on the subject of tabloid jingoism, I await the first tabloid to hire a coach that will run through the strikers' picket line whilst blaring "Rule Brittania"/
Why anyone in their right mind would book a holiday to a place where strikes and disruption seem to be the norm is beyond me. Not to mention that when you do get there, it's seething with English people eating fish and chips. May just as well stay home in that case. You are not sheep and you do not have to go where hoards of others are going. Why not think outside the box and get creative? After all, your vacation is supposed to be an escape from stress not a nosedive into it. I wouldn't go to Spain or the Balearics if it was free and you paid me.
I am writing this from O"hare in Chicago. It is now 11:23 am CST. My flight was supposed to take off at 10:30 am - yesterday!
Alison Rowe, Scotland
Had a wonderful week's holiday in Ibiza, that was slightly spoiled by the coach drivers. The reps did everything they could to get us to the airport on time and didn't do a bad job. The plane company was appalling though. They put us on to a different plane that had no food or drink on board. That went to the wrong airport so we were put on another plane - still without any refreshments - back to London. Once at Gatwick we had to wait for over two hours whilst the baggage handlers unloaded the plane, with no explanation for the delay; they only managed to do four other planes in that time. They were obviously affected by the coach strike too, huh?
We spent almost 12 hours in Palma.
The tour operator was useless, they had no information and didn't seem to care much.
We were also extorted on the car hire for the airport with numerous "taxes and insurance, loaded onto the price and had "striking" drivers near our complex while the police did not appear until the small hours of Friday.
We will not be back again.
Mark Hildyard, England
I have sympathy for the coach drivers if they are as grossly underpaid as our own coach drivers then good luck to them.
I have seen so many complaints from "families with children" about their poor treatment. What I don't understand is why the children aren't in school. No schools have broken up for summer holidays yet, so how come all these kids are stuck at Gatwick being bored? If they were in school where they belonged, there wouldn't be any problems.
My daughter was due to fly back from Malaga early hours of this morning, she originally called around 8pm Sunday to say the flight was going to arrive approx 30 mins early, but then call to say she was delayed a minimum of 8 hours but they had been given a hotel room for the night. Considering this was a cheap and cheerful holiday for a group of students celebrating their degree results, it just goes to show what tour operators really can do!
Thank you Going Places
Alex Banks, UK, living in Holland
I spent over 15 hours stuck in the departure lounge of Palma airport this weekend. The tour operator reps were not keeping holidaymakers informed. I will not be going back to the country again. Now I know what cattle feel like.
We were meant to fly out at 1730 on Friday from Mahon to Stansted. We left 0415 Saturday and without prior knowledge taken to Gatwick! One bottle of water, no food, no reps air side. Pickets stopped taxis 1 mile from the airport and made people (including families with babes in arms) walk to the terminal in the heat of the midday sun. Everyone should boycott the Balearics for the next year. Then they would find out what happens when you bite the hand that feeds you.
Henry Willis, England
What worries me more, was the ease with which we changed our flights and NOBODY even checked our ID or queried our tickets. No departure cards were given - and security was non-existence.
One word describes the scene at Palma airport last night - chaos.
The airport was covered with covered with beds, cots and rotting food.
We wanted to travel back to Frankfurt wth a German charter company.
The information and assistance was diabolical. It wasn't only the British companies affected - the local representatives were totally overwhelmed.
One of the tour operators claimed this weekend that the problems were not of their making. Is it not true that 90% of coaches (and their drivers) are run by directly owned subsidiaries of the tour operators? If this is the case, they are directly responsible, and should admit it. Also they should pay their employees a reasonable amount, so that their customers get what they save so long to pay for - 2 weeks holiday to relax out of 52 weeks working.
Mark, Hong Kong
My heart bleeds....
Here in the States we're lucky to get two weeks off annually after years of thankless devotion to our masters. Consider yourself lucky to have a plastic seat at Gatwick to sit in whilst waiting for the possibility of one of your all too many holidays.
All I can say is, there are plenty of destinations beyond Europe that one can go to, and for a lot less money, and far better service.
Mark Taylor, England
Come to California, we have beaches, Disneyland, Sea World. We would love to see you.
My niece flew out to Palma airport on Saturday and said the queues for taxis was ridiculous. They decided to walk in to the villa they were staying at, and flagged a taxi down on its way back to the airport. Anyone on their way out there should think about getting out on the roads to flag a cab. It seems that if the air traffic controllers don't cause problems someone else will.
After 26 hours at Manchester I took the option to accept cancellation and return home. Disappointing but preferrable to flying out to Menorca and probably a worse experience there, including uncertainty for next weekend. I feel Airtours were pretty good, it was a nightmare for the frontline staff with whom I was impressed given the trying circumstances and some unreasonable people. The problem is with the strikers not the airport and tour operators' staff. Mostly, though, people were calm and accepting of the situation and life at airport was not hell. Extra seating was laid on and rooms made available. Overnight accommodation was provided by Airtours together with meal vouchers. Thank you to the staff for doing your best. It won't be Balearics if we re-book later this summer.
Last year I waited eight hours and there wasn't a strike. We got no food or information. I'm going to Ibiza next Sunday and I'm thinking about cancelling because I'm going to unwind - not to catch some disease while sat in an overcrowded airport lounge for three days.
I am hoping to travel to Majorca with my son next Sunday. From my experiences of flying to the Balearics in the past, overcowded aiports and flight delays are nothing unusual. The same can be said for ill informed Tour Reps. It's all part of the holiday experience.
Neil Small, Scotland
I have just returned back from a holiday in Menorca. We were due to leave the island on 29 Friday on the 1650 flight to Glasgow. Got to the airport with great difficulty, on the way there saw families carrying their bags and pushing prams about 1/2 to 1 kilometre away from the airport. Got to the airport, a rough estimate of no less than 1,000 people with more than half of that number with children and babies. All the holiday reps there had no clue about anything whatsoever. Managed with great difficulty to get checked into a flight to Gatwick.
My heart goes out to any families who are still stuck there, outside the airport with no way of getting back to their resorts and no idea as to when they are to fly out, with mosquitoes eating them alive. All that I can say is that it was the worst possible weekend for this to happen. The taxi drivers were charging what they wanted for the journey in the vicinity of the airport. Like I said before we were very lucky to make it out of that situation. My thoughts are with the people still stuck there.
We have 3 small children and were on holiday in Alcudia. We were told to be at reception on 30 June at 0520. We then waited 7 hours before a taxi finally collected us and took us to Palma by which time we had missed our scheduled flight. We then had to wait a further 14 hours before we finally got a flight. So, 23 hours with 3 children and nothing to keep them occupied, little or no information and with the threat of Palma being closed to incoming traffic was a living nightmare.
We were supposed to fly to Menorca on Friday at 1.30pm. While travelling to Teesside airport we heard that there were delays. We contacted the airline and were told to check-in as normal but that there would be a delay. On arrival staff were available from the airport and the airline to keep us informed of the situation. Entertainment was laid on for the kids, and the facilities in the airport were excellent, including very helpful staff. (As someone who flies regularly on business, I have to say that this was a bonus).
Unfortunately the flight was delayed until Saturday, so we were put up in a hotel. The next day the flight was cancelled and with it our holiday. Disappointing, of course, mainly for our children who were really looking forward to getting away to the sun.
However, I have sympathy for the bus drivers having heard of their demands from a contact in Menorca. I have nothing but thanks to the airport staff at Teesside and the airline staff from Airtours who were helpful and genuinely sympathetic. Refunds have already been arranged.
Back home in Glasgow now trying to organise a holiday via the internet, so hopefully we should be able to salvage something. Would I arrange to go again ? Only after searching the net for "Balearics" and "strike action"
Buses leave on the hour virtually every hour from the main bus depot in Palma to most major resorts. Although not ideal, these buses are economical, air-conditioned and comfortable. We returned from Mallorca a week ago and throughout our two-week stay, used the service extensively. Please, if possible, make the people going through this nightmare aware of this
I am due to fly to Ibiza with my wife and two young children next Sunday. I am very concerned that this strike will still be on. It must be costing the tour operators and airlines millions. Why don't they give the coach drivers what they want, it's small amount compared with the losses the above companies must be absorbing. I think it is absolutely disgusting the way holidaymakers have been treated this weekend. Come on tour operators do something about it.
01 Jul 01 | UK
Spanish flight chaos worsens
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