Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 10:08 UK

Passengers at Heathrow Airport relieved to return to UK

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen: "It's been a little bit Challenge Anneka"

Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport have spoken of their relief to be home after flight restrictions were lifted.

A British Airways flight from Vancouver in Canada was the first plane to land at the airport shortly before 2200 BST.

It had been bound for Shannon in the Irish Republic until word came through it could land in London after all.

One passenger from the plane told BBC News: "It was a tremendous feeling when we landed. Everybody cheered on the aeroplane. It was fantastic."

Another said: "We all wanted to get somewhere safely - wherever it was."

'Good to be back'

Those passengers only learned they would be landing at Heathrow less than an hour before they arrived, and had expected they would be landing at Shannon - either to wait for conditions to clear for a connecting flight, or to make arrangements for an onward journey by land and sea.

The first passenger to emerge, Neil Rodgers, from Little London, near Reading, said the atmosphere on board was "great".

He said of the volcanic ash that had caused so many problems: "It's one of those things you can't do anything about.

There was a lot of very un-British clapping and cheering when the plane actually landed
Laurence Llewelyn Bowen
TV presenter

"As we were coming in to land I was quite concerned as we were coming through the cloud."

He added: "It's good to be back."

David Jack, 37, from Dumfermline in Fife, said: "Everyone felt that if the pilot was happy to fly then we were happy to get on."

Carol Betton-Dunn, 37, from Chelsea, west London, said: "It was very stressful. I was quite anxious."

She added: "Everyone was worried because at the airport in Vancouver we were getting reports the ash was still spilling out.

"I wanted to get home but I would rather have stayed in Vancouver if I thought there was a chance there might be a problem with the flight."

Sleeping on floor

Television presenter Laurence Llewelyn Bowen arrived at Heathrow on Tuesday on a BA flight from Mauritius, where he had been on holiday with his family.

He said: "There was a lot of very un-British clapping and cheering when the plane actually landed.

"We didn't know until about 20 minutes to go that we were actually going to land at Heathrow."

He likened the whole experience to the TV programme Challenge Anneka, "very exciting, running around airports".

Lorna Buckley, 36, from Portsmouth, who arrived from India, relived how she had spent two days sleeping on magazines on the floor at Delhi Airport.

She said: "There weren't loads of people as most of the airlines were getting people out but there was another British lady and it was quite a good atmosphere. It wasn't ideal but it was okay."

'Massive relief'

More flights started to arrive at Heathrow in the morning and at 0806 BST the first departure - an Alitalia service to Rome - took off.

Kat Payne, 29, a school art technician, and Ali Young, 41 - stuck in Bahrain since last Thursday on their way back from a holiday in Kathmandu, Nepal - arrived at Terminal 4 on a Gulf Air flight.

"It's all been an unknown quantity, but I'm glad they've been cautious rather than cavalier," Ms Payne said.

"There's been a real sense of camaraderie, with people making new friends."

Ms Young said: "The British Embassy were very helpful, with the ambassador himself coming to the airport to meet us personally and see us off from the gate."

Heathrow Terminal 5 on 21 April 2010
Passengers spent a night in the airport as they waited for connections

In Terminal 5, passengers were lying on the floor with their bags waiting for flights to leave. Many had arrived at Heathrow on some of the first flights to enter UK airspace and were awaiting connections.

Giuseppe Toffoli flew in from Denver in the US and was waiting for a 1500 BST departure to Venice, Italy.

He said: "It was our second night at an airport. It's been big, big trouble for us."

Meanwhile, passengers whose flights had been originally scheduled for Wednesday, began turning up.

Nicola Prescott, a sales assistant from Manchester, was heading to New York for her 21st birthday.

"It wasn't until 11pm last night that I found out I'd still be able to go, which was a massive relief," she said.



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