Shropshire Star

Friends' French getaway called off after strike cancels Ryanair flight - with plane ready to go

A group of friends today described how their flight to France was cancelled – just as they settled into their seats ready to take off.

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Maria Cusine, standing, with friends after being told they were going nowhere

The party of seven from the Black Country were looking forward to a weekend catch-up in the south of France.

But their Ryanair flight was blocked on the runway before it could take off from Manchester Airport, thanks to an air traffic controllers' strike in France.

The pilot announced the news to passengers on the scheduled flight to Carcassone, who then had to queue to retrieve their bags.

One of those affected was 50-year-old Maria Cusine, from Wordsley, who had helped book the short break last year.

She and her friends initially tried to book another flight elsewhere in Europe but then gave up - and were today enjoying a couple of days in Chester instead.

Ms Cusine said: "We were aware of a strike and were a bit concerned, but everything was fine and normal.

Maria Cusine, centre, with friends looking forward to their flight - before it was cancelled

"Then as we settled down for the flight we were told that the strike was causing a six-hour delay and that we would not be able to travel.

"My friend Eileen was convinced at first it was an early April Fools joke as there was just no warning. One of the air stewards wished all the passengers a good day and everyone just laughed.

"We are taking it in our stride. It is very disappointing and we now need to try to get the money back from our accommodation in France, but we are still enjoying our weekend and making the best of it.

"But there were clearly many people on that flight trying to get to loved ones and it was very upsetting for them."

The strike caused widespread disruption in France, with a knock-on effect on flights from the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

British Airways cancelled 50 short-haul flights on Thursday alone due to French air-traffic control strikes. Other airports were also affected, although all flights managed to get away from Birmingham Airport.

Multiple departures to Amsterdam, Hamburg, Nice, Prague and Zurich were grounded at Heathrow, along with the inbound legs from those cities.

Ryanair, the largest airline in Europe, denounced the strike action caused by French air traffic controllers, saying it impacted all international flights from the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland.

It said 25 per cent of 9,000 scheduled weekend flights were delayed due to strikes, while another 230 flights were cancelled, affecting nearly 41,000 passengers including a large proportion from the UK.