Football fans scramble for tickets ahead of mammoth sporting weekend
THOUSANDS of Irish football fans were last night scrambling to get to France ahead of what promises to be an incredible sporting weekend.
Both Northern Ireland and the Republic have reached the knock-out stages of the European Championships for the first time and supporters have been desperately appealing on social media for tickets.
Northern Ireland face Wales in their last 16 tie in Paris tomorrow, while the Republic of Ireland will attempt to dump out hosts France in Lyon on Sunday.
A limited number of extra tickets for both games went on general sale yesterday through the UEFA website, but were immediately snapped up.
The Football Association of Ireland has confirmed it will continue to press the governing body in an attempt to free up more.
Chief executive John Delaney said: "We will be doing everything we can to get as many Irish supporters into Sunday's game against France in Lyon."
Watch: Germany's Mat Hummels praise Northern Ireland fans
Ryanair yesterday announced that it had scheduled special return flights from Dublin to Lyon after being “inundated with requests”.
However, by yesterday evening only the 1.20pm outward flight remained available, priced at a hefty €322.39. The two remaining Sunday return flights were €399.99 and €429.99.
Aer Lingus said it was also investigating if it can add extra flights to bring fans to Lyon or nearby destinations. Its flight to Lyon tomorrow was sold out, as is one to Geneva around one hour away.
Thomson Sport, the Irish Football Association's official travel supplier, confirmed that all initial spaces for its day trip packages for Northern Ireland’s game with Wales had been snapped up.
The package included direct return flights from Belfast to Paris and transfers, but no tickets, and was priced at £499.
East Belfast company Travel Solutions has arranged 10 charter flights for 2,000 Northern Ireland fans so far during the competition.
It has also been inundated with requests since Northern Ireland qualified for the last 16, but the company’s solitary charter flight for Paris has long been sold out.
Watch: Northern Ireland supporters at fanzone
Press officer Brian McKibbon said: "If we are able to get an additional plane obviously we will sell it immediately and get as many people to the match as we can."
The last direct sailing from Ireland to France departed from Rosslare to Cherbourg last night and will see football fans arrive in France today at 4.30pm, although there are still last minute sailings from England.
Due to the unprecedented demand fans have been forced to be creative with their travel plans, with reports of groups fans flying to Carcassonne and Barcelona and then driving.
One or two-stop connections are also a popular and often cheaper option than flying direct, with fans flying to England and then connecting in Spain, Germany or Switzerland before arriving in France.