BY Amanda Connelly | October 27 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

AIRPORT1

St Andrews & Edinburgh pilgrims stranded after cancelled flight

A group of pilgrims have been left stranded in Portugal until next week, after a long-awaited pilgrimage ended in disaster when Easyjet cancelled their flight home.

The 74-person group – which contains many elderly parishioners – from the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh were heading home from the week-long trip when disaster to strike upon their arrival at Lisbon Airport yesterday morning.

Accompanying the group on the pilgrimage was Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh, as well as a number of other members of clergy.

The group’s flight was delayed before being cancelled due to fog conditions, with Easyjet now saying they are unable to get all of the group back home until next Tuesday, October 31.

In addition to the number of senior members of the group, there are also individuals who medications which are running low, and others with family commitments, with the tour operator labelling it the worst situation of a stranded group she has encountered in the company’s history.

EasyJet have proposed to fly pilgrims home bit by bit, but this would see some of the elderly and infirm group members forced to travel without their group leader, who must remain in Portugal until the last of the pilgrims leave next Tuesday.

Alternative travel routes have also been suggested, including overnights in a number of destinations from Luton to Milan.

The group had been enjoying what proved to a beautiful pilgrimage to Fatima as part of the centenary year celebrations, which otherwise had went without a hitch.

They received a special blessing on Sunday October 22 after Archbishop Cushley was asked to preside at Mass for thousands of pilgrims in the Chapel of the Apparitions, the exact location of the apparitions in 1917, and lead the Rosary the following day.

The archdiocese was also consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary after Mass on October 20.

Now, the pilgrims have been left feeling let down by the inconvenient ending to their pilgrimage at the hands of Easyjet.

“We would’ve expected more of them, we’re just a wee bit disappointed in them,” Fr Scott Deeley, the pilgrimage leader, said of Easyjet. “We’re now 25 hours after the flight should have gone and we’re all still waiting. We’ve just been left hanging really.”

He noted that some priests and the archbishop had to pay for other flights home, in order to be back in Scotland for funerals, weddings and other appointments, but for other pilgrims, you ‘can’t really expect people to pay that amount of money’.

“A lot of the problem is not knowing,” he added, noting that some of those stranded were left ‘anxious’ over the situation.

He noted that they group were in the terminal for 10-and-a-half hours before being put up in a hotel, with some of the pilgrims having to stand or sit on trolleys due to few seats in the area.

The pilgrimage group were originally offered to be split in three different hotels across the city, eventually being offered one hotel for all the pilgrims.

The group has been split into three, with the third lot of pilgrims due to fly home on October 31.

“The pilgrimage was wonderful, it was a great thing, everyone got something out of it,” Fr Deeley said. “It’s just this little hurdle we’re having to get over.”

“Easyjet can confirm that flight EZY6982 from Lisbon to Edinburgh on October 26 was cancelled due to severe fog Lisbon, preventing our inbound aircraft from landing,” a spokesperson for the airline told the SCO. “We understanding how frustrating that was for our passengers but the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always Easyjet’s highest priority.

“EasyJet is working hard to bring all passengers back to the UK over the next few days. As we have no seats available from Lisbon to Edinburgh over the next week, we will provide seats on EasyJet flights via Luton, Gatwick and Milan to Edinburgh.

“All affected passengers have been and will be provided with hotel accommodation where that is needed. Passengers who book their own hotel or a flight with another airline will be reimbursed by EasyJet.

“While the circumstances are outside of the airline’s control, EasyJet apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

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