The airline is overbooking flights, splitting up the family and making children fly to the US separately

The airline is overbooking flights, splitting up the household and making youngsters fly to the US individually

Robbie and Sarah Kitchen anticipated their household summer time trip to Florida to be a post-Covid dream journey and a well being hazard.

The household of 5 from Dundonald in Northern Eire had initially deliberate to go to the Sunshine State in 2020, however Covid put a damper on the plan. Then Robbie was identified with prostate most cancers and spent months present process remedy earlier than getting the all clear.

Lastly, in June 2022 they have been packed and able to fly from their native airport, Belfast Metropolis. They’d a confirmed reserving on Aer Lingus to London Heathrow, with a switch to Virgin Atlantic for the flight to Orlando.

However the Irish airline oversold the primary leg – and, regardless of protests from the mother and father, insisted two of the kids be pushed throughout the Irish border and flown 4,000 miles on their very own.

The primary the household knew of an issue was upon check-in on the airport in Northern Eire.

Floor employees separated their daughter Molly (16) and older son Zack (18) and requested them to attend at a separate desk.

The mother and father and their youngest little one, three-year-old Charlie, obtained their boarding passes. However as Sarah Kitchen informed the BBC Ulster programme In your behalfthe bottom employees stated there was no room for the older youngsters.

“They stated, ‘I am sorry, the flight is overbooked and there is not any room to your different two youngsters. We’ll simply put them on the subsequent flight.'”

Ms Kitchen defined that the subsequent flight would arrive after the onward connection to Florida had left.

“They stated, ‘It is simply the way in which it’s.’ There may be nothing we are able to do.”

Departure from Dublin: Aer Lingus Airbus A330 prepares for departure to the US

(Simon Calder)

Underneath European air passenger rights guidelines, airways are legally required to ask for volunteers to journey on a later flight earlier than denying boarding to passengers who have to fly as booked. Aer Lingus didn’t do that.

“I used to be in shock and I used to be making an attempt to course of what we may do,” Ms Kitchen stated. “The youngsters have been distressed they usually simply could not consider what was taking place. So I stated can we at the least change and go away one grownup with one little one after which one in all us go along with two youngsters?

“They stated, ‘No, should you do this, you are voluntarily giving up a seat and that additionally voids your seat on to America.’

“I attempted to argue our level and the folks behind the road may see how involved we have been, they usually began arguing on our behalf and stated, ‘Have you ever requested, possibly somebody would provide to surrender their seat and change – they may take the later flight?’.

However, she says, the bottom employees stated: “No, the aircraft has boarded. We will not do this and you need to come now, we’ve got to get you on this aircraft otherwise you quit your seats.”

Ms Kitchen then determined to completely clarify the circumstances.

“I went over and spoke calmly to the employees and defined my husband’s state of affairs and the way this was the vacation of a lifetime and we simply did not wish to be separated as a household – wasn’t there something that may very well be carried out simply to maintain us all collectively?

“There was no sympathy.

“The youngest was so upset and cried for many of the flight. I used to be shaking – I did not know what was going to occur to the opposite two and I used to be simply so nervous for them.

“By the point we landed and have been in a position to activate the telephones, my son had despatched a message to say they’d been put in a taxi from Belfast Metropolis Airport right down to Dublin Airport, the place they’d be boarding a aircraft that may take them to Orlando.

“It was going to be a solo flight to America. We had no say on this resolution and it upset me.

“They have been simply anticipated to succeed in the airport and discover out the place they have been going subsequent. They weren’t given any flight particulars – they have been simply informed to go to an Aer Lingus counter. My son at that stage was very upset.”

At Heathrow the mother and father spent their time on the telephone making an attempt to talk to somebody at Aer Lingus.

“We have been on the telephone, ready, unable to talk to an precise individual to search out out what occurred.”

Simply earlier than the mother and father and the youngest little one needed to board the Virgin Atlantic flight at Heathrow, they heard from their older son.

“The final replace we acquired from him was, ‘We’re nonetheless within the queue on the Aer Lingus counter. Now we have no tickets. We have been informed our flight takes off in about an hour.”

Others within the queue at Dublin Airport urged the children to go to the entrance – however once they did, floor employees informed them to return and wait with their households.

Ms Kitchen says her distraught son Zack informed Aer Lingus employees: “That is the purpose, I haven’t got my household with me, we have been despatched right here to attempt to get on a aircraft.”

Again at Heathrow, she says, the Virgin Atlantic crew on the flight making ready to go to Orlando have been extra sympathetic.

“As quickly as we got here on they may inform there was one thing incorrect they usually despatched a service supervisor down who took all the small print. She went off to attempt to begin calling Aer Lingus.

“I used to be simply so upset at this level. I used to be simply heartbroken that our household journey was ruined like this, and extra simply nervous — I did not know in the event that they have been even going to get on the aircraft and go to Orlando. The woman truly gave me an enormous hug.”

One of many Virgin Atlantic pilots then got here to talk to the mother and father. She informed them: “I’ve simply spoken to the pilot of the Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Orlando and your youngsters are of their seats.”

Ms Kitchen says: “At that time I may breathe once more. I may chill out; at the least I knew they have been secure. I knew they have been on their approach and we’d see them quickly.”

The household met on the Orlando airport however say the primary few days of the vacation have been spoiled by the nerve-racking begin. “It took us just a few days to even get into vacation mode as a result of everybody was so upset,” says Sarah Kitchen.

When she complained to Aer Lingus about her remedy, she was informed by a buyer relations supervisor: “I’m so sorry to listen to about your disappointing expertise whenever you and your loved ones flew with us just lately.

“I can actually perceive your disappointment with a number of facets of our service as you described.”

Aer Lingus provided a flight voucher value €50 (£43) per individual. Underneath European air passenger rights guidelines, the 2 youngsters have been to pay £520 every in money compensation for being denied boarding.

In addition to the money compensation, Ms Kitchen stated: “I would really like them to at the least acknowledge the trauma that we went via and settle for that it’s unacceptable to separate a household with out consent, with none clear, detailed plan of how we’d be reunited. They did the selection.”

In a press release, Aer Lingus stated: “We sincerely apologize to Sarah and her household for his or her expertise – this isn’t the extent of service we attempt to offer at Aer Lingus.

“Our floor operations at Belfast Metropolis Airport are dealt with by a 3rd social gathering provider – we might be conducting an intensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.

“Our customer support staff has been in direct contact with Sarah to rearrange compensation.”

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