Saharan sandstorm leaves British holidaymakers stranded at airports

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British holidaymakers are stranded at airports in the Canary Islands after a Saharan sandstorm.

Flights from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, North and South Tenerife Airports have been grounded for the foreseeable future due to the weather conditions.

Customer service staff for the airports told the PA news agency that while no planes are flying, airports have remained open for passengers.

Passengers queuing at Tenerife South airport
Passengers queuing at Tenerife South airport (Linda Cantelo/PA)

Passengers have posted photographs of people sitting on the floor waiting for more information.

Greg Horsman, 29, was on holiday with his girlfriend and his friends on a Tui cruise and was due to fly home to Manchester on Saturday evening.

However, they have been forced to stay in Gran Canaria for another two nights due to the storm.

Trees blow during the sandstorm
Clouds of red dust have formed across the Canary Islands (Sophie Barley/PA)

“Last night we were in the airport for five hours and I was frustrated because Tui couldn’t help us or do anything until the airport declared that they were closed which they did at 10.30pm.

“Tui reps did give us updates when we asked but unfortunately it didn’t seem they were getting much information quickly.

“We then spent the night there, most of us in our original cabins, then came back to the airport at 12.30pm and have been here since.

“We are being sent to a hotel tonight but we’re not sure where we’re going to yet.”

He added: “We’re frustrated because there should be contingency plans for when a weather event grounds flights.

“They all kept saying ‘Oh we’ve never seen this happen before’ which I understand, it’s a freak of nature, but when weather grounds all flights there is surely a contingency plan that gets put into place so people can get accommodation sorted.”

Passengers stand near a screen displaying cancelled flights
Flights have been cancelled (AP/Andres Gutierrez)

He said: “We were told we needed to check the boards for updates.

“We didn’t get any and then at 1.30am we found a Tui rep, who then sorted us out with a hotel room on the other side of the island at 4am.

“We got an email at 7.58am saying a coach would be leaving the hotel at 8.30am to take us to the airport and we’ve been here ever since.”

He added: “I am Type One diabetic and when I explained to a Tui rep that I will not have enough insulin for the next 24 hours, their response was that they would deal with it when it becomes an emergency.

“The duty of care for their customers is a disgrace, they do not want to take responsibility for anything or anyone. Children and elderly adults having no option but to sit and sleep on the dirty airport floors.

“We understand the weather conditions is not their fault but how they have catered for their customers is disgusting. It’s basically a failure of Tui and their staff.”

A spokeswoman for Tui said: “We would like to sincerely apologise to customers for the disruption caused by the adverse and changeable weather conditions in the Canary Islands on Saturday February 22 and Sunday February 23.

“The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority and we are working tirelessly to find the best solutions for all our customers.

“Everyone is being provided with food and drinks as well as being supported by our Tui reps. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this is causing and would like to thank our customers for their co-operation and patience.”

Elsewhere, Britons have posted photographs of the orange sky on the islands as the wind continued to batter seaside towns.

Michael Nixon, who is on holiday in Tenerife with his family to celebrate his 50th birthday and is due to fly home to Newcastle on Wednesday, said “pink dust” had covered his rented apartment balcony.

He said: “It’s all a bit surreal. A heavy mist came in last night followed by very strong gusty winds during the night.

“This morning we awoke to yellowish haze and strong winds.

“We ventured out but it’s difficult to see with all of the sand in the air.

“We are slightly concerned that our flight home on Wednesday could be affected.

“The sky is still yellow. It’s around 29C (84F) but visibility is around 200m.”

People walk across a bridge in a cloud of red dust
People walk across a bridge in a cloud of red dust (AP/Andres Gutierrez)

Tim Crew, 69, had booked a holiday to Lanzarote with his family after cancelling their previous holiday to Hong Kong and Thailand because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Their BA flight out of Gatwick Airport on Sunday has been cancelled and the family has been booked into a hotel.

He said: “It’s one of those things really. If no one had talked to us and if there had been obvious problems and culpability, I’d probably be quite annoyed.

“But everyone’s done the right thing. The pilot came out a few times and told us in person and apologised, saying they had no more news at the moment and they were going to send us to a hotel.

“It’s not great, it’s not how I planned it, it’s not what I want, but these things happen.”

A spokeswoman for BA said: “We’ve been looking after our customers and have offered hotel accommodation and meal vouchers to those who were due to travel on the flight to Tenerife that has been delayed by the sandstorm.

“We’re staying in regular contact with our customers and we look forward to getting them on their way tomorrow.”

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