A sick Dungannon girl travelling to London for vital surgery and her distressed parents were left stranded at the George Best airport for several hours on Monday after their Aer Lingus flight was cancelled at the last minute.
Dessie Hughes, whose seven year-old daughter Carla suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, criticised the airline for how it treated his family.
Due to fly on the 8.45am flight to London Heathrow for an operation at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, the Hughes learned that the flight had been cancelled due to technical difficulties.
“They made no apology or attempt to book us onto another flight, given the importance of our travel arrangements”, said Dessie. “We had to be at the hospital by 5pm to be admitted onto the ward. So we had to make several frantic calls to the NHS emergency line and the hospital.”
At one point a representative of the airline told them that there would be no Aer Lingus flights that day due to technical difficulties.
“We had to wait for three hours until they finally confirmed that they were putting us on the 1.15pm flight. By this stage, we were all very stressed out.”
Carla underwent specialist face reanimation surgery on Thursday morning to help bring back her smile.
The condition has wasted the muscles around her mouth making it difficult for her to form facial expressions. Surgeons removed muscles from her leg and implanted them in her neck.
Doctors say it will take ten to twelve weeks before they will know whether the operation has been successful or not.
A spokesperson for Aer Lingus said: “Aer Lingus made every effort to resolve the technical issue as soon as possible. We did attempt to seek seats with another carrier for the passengers in question, however none were available.
“The family were subsequently accommodated on the next available Aer Lingus flight which was scheduled at 13:15 that day.
“We understand these situations can be stressful for our guests, especially when travelling for medical reasons, and we sincerely apologise for the delay caused to this family’s travel plans.”