Dozens of Belgians, including many families with children, were stuck on Crete Friday night (13 July 2018) after their flight to Brussels had been delayed for many hours due to technical problems. They had to spend the night at the airport “in difficult conditions”. Saturday morning they were taken to a hotel. They were told a new flight was scheduled around 17:00. TUI fly Belgium confirms the problems and promises a compensation of 400 euros for all affected passengers.
Flight TB5478 from Heraklion to Brussels, to be operated by AirExplore Boeing 737-800 registered OM-HEX with approximately 180 passengers on board, normally had to leave at 22:10 Friday night, but on arrival at the airport travellers were immediately informed that their flight would be delayed due to the late arrival of the incoming flight, which eventually arrived at 23:30 instead of 21:15. When the tourists checked in their luggage and finally were called to board the plane around midnight, their patience was put to test again. The bus that should take them to the aircraft did not move for three-quarters of an hour.
The tourists were recalled to the airport building and sent to a waiting room. There they were told that a problem with the toilets was the reason for the delay. At two o’clock in the morning, they learned that their flight had been cancelled (in fact, the aircraft returned empty to Brussels), but more information was not forthcoming, “because at that hour there was hardly anyone in the airport,” said one passenger to newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
And so the approximately 180 travellers were forced to spend the night in the airport building, which according to that passenger was disgusting: “There were cigarette butts and waste everywhere. People had to sleep among the cockroaches. There were many families with children.” Only at 09:00 the holidaymakers were picked up by a bus to be taken to a hotel, but “everything turned out to be full.”
The return flight was then rescheduled around 17:00. It eventually was operated by another Boeing 737-800 registered OO-JAA in the colours of TUI fly Belgium, taking off at 17:13 and arriving in Brussels Saturday evening at 19:38. The tourists had been delayed by 19 hours.
TUI confirmed on Twitter that the return flight was cancelled “due to a technical problem on board the aircraft“. A spokesman acknowledged that it was particularly difficult to find accommodation for the travellers because it is high season. According to the airline, eventually, two hotels were found where a good part of the tourists could be taken care of. “We have given priority to families with children“, said the spokesman.
TUI emphasises that it has done everything to send another flight from Brussels to Crete. “But that proved impossible because of the high season. All our aircraft were busy.” Spokesman Piet Demeyere understands the dissatisfaction of the passengers, but also defends the three TUI employees who were working at the airport. “As long as they do not have any information themselves, they cannot give it, of course.” According to Demeyere, the staff did everything possible to bring the situation to a favourable conclusion.
TUI has promised a compensation of € 400 for all passengers of the stranded flight.