A group of talented arts students from Huntingdon missed out on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Budapest after getting caught up in the Ryanair debacle.
The Irish airline has been forced to cancel 2,000 flights in September and October after “messing up” the scheduling of its pilots’ holidays, with 315,000 passengers facing long delays or having to find last-minute alternatives.
Among them were 12 students and four teachers who were hand-picked from St Peter’s and Hinchingbrooke schools to attend an arts festival in the Hungarian capital city, with their flight due to leave last Tuesday (September 19).
While there were no problems expected on the way out to Hungary, Ryanair contacted the organisers of the trip, the Huntingdon and Godmanchester Twinning Association, to inform them that they could not confirm return flights for the group, leaving them with no option but to cancel the trip for the youngsters.
Though Malcolm Lyons, a member of the association, was able to attend the festival along with the mayors of Huntingdon and Godmanchester, he said the cancellation came as a blow to the students.
“Because of the uncertainty regarding the flights we couldn’t send the students out there,” Mr Lyons said. “The festival had music, it had sculpture and painting, it was a wonderful occasion so it was very sad for the students that they couldn’t attend.
“We are hoping that we will be able to do something else for them, with permission from the schools.”
Mr Lyons added: “It was awful timing for us, they [Ryanair] have got to get their act together.”
And the pupils weren’t the only ones caught up in the cancellations, with a group of 23 adult members of the twinning association forced to make their own last-minute arrangements on the way home from Italy after Ryanair cancelled their flight to Stansted.
The group had been on a visit to Gubbio, with which Huntingdon and Godmanchester are twinned, and were due to fly back last Monday (September 18) when they were told their flight had been cancelled.
Trish James, a member of the association, said: “They had to stay an extra night and they couldn’t get any flights from where they were staying so had to get a coach to Milan and get a flight home to Gatwick.”
Mr Lyons added that the process of lodging compensation claims with Ryanair was already under way, with a bill for hundreds of pounds in unexpected costs racked up.
Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said: “We again apologise sincerely to each of the 315,000 customers whose original flights were cancelled over a six-week period in September and October.
“More than 97 per cent of affected customers have now been re-accommodated, and the remaining three per cent are urged to get in contact regarding their rebooking or refunding options.
“No further flights have been cancelled for rostering reasons and our first wave punctuality has increased to 96 per cent, while we continue to work hard to resolve this short term rostering failure.
“We have expanded our customer service team, who are assisting all affected customers with their requests, as we try to resolve any problems we have created for them, for which we again sincerely apologise.”