Tourists left waiting on island of Zakynthos because of technical fault and then flight curfew protecting sea creatures.
Scores of easyJet passengers were stranded on the Greek island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante) after their plane developed technical difficulties and a replacement aircraft was prevented from flying in because of mating turtles.
Passengers expressed fury at easyJet’s lack of communication and “incredibly bad” handling of the delay, which began on Sunday afternoon.
Some travellers, who did not book on to other flights, were only able to make it home on Tuesday.
A fault with a wing flap was announced by the captain soon after passengers boarded the flight to Gatwick at around 3pm on Sunday, and there was no communication for another hour.
Despite being told the problem would be resolved in 20 minutes, passengers were soon asked to disembark.
They were forced to wait through “hours of nothingness,” according to Rebecca Morris, 39, who was travelling with her husband and two small children.
She described the facilities at Zakynthos airport as “basic” and said there was no help or guidance from easyJet apart from the odd automated text message.
“There was no food or refreshments and there was no representative from easyJet,” Morris said.
She said that while her family’s travel agents helped them find accommodation and taxis, other passengers were left to “fend for themselves”.
A similar process was repeated on Monday.
The airline said the night curfew – apparently in place because of vulnerable loggerhead turtles breeding nearby – had prevented an alternative aircraft being sent out.
The sea turtle breeding season is well under way in Zakynthos. According to Archelon, a group dedicated in protecting sea turtles in Greece, late June to early July see the highest levels of spawning. The group has recorded 500 nests on the island so far, but that is fewer than in previous years.
EasyJet later apologised for the delay. A spokesman said: “Unfortunately easyJet was unable to operate flight EZY8746 from Zante to London Gatwick on Sunday 30 July due to a technical fault with the aircraft and had to delay the flight overnight.
“Engineers were immediately dispatched to Zante and believed that the technical issue was rectified yesterday, however it then reoccurred before boarding which meant the flight could not operate. The safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority and we will only operate if it is safe to do so.
“We do all possible to try and minimise delays and as such planned to send a replacement aircraft. Unfortunately, due to the night curfew rule at the airport, we were unable to get the replacement aircraft into the airport. The flight departed Zante and arrived at London Gatwick today.
“Around a quarter of passengers travelled on flights with alternative carriers yesterday afternoon. Passengers have been provided with hotel accommodation and expenses in line with EU261 regulations and will also be entitled to EU261 compensation.”
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