‘Frustrated’ Scottish student stranded at airport overnight amid travel chaos

Matthew Creed and Michael McDonnell, passengers stranded due to ATC glitch (Matthew Creed/Michael McDonnell/PA)
Matthew Creed and Michael McDonnell, passengers stranded due to ATC glitch (Matthew Creed/Michael McDonnell/PA)

A “frustrated and tired” Scottish drama student was left stranded in Amsterdam Airport overnight when an air traffic control glitch saw his flight cancelled, forcing him to sleep there.

Matthew Creed, a 26-year-old drama student from Harthill, became stuck at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport after his flight with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Edinburgh was cancelled.

Tens of thousands more airline passengers suffered flight cancellations on Tuesday due to the knock-on impact of an ATC fault.

Matthew Creed stranded in Amsterdam Airport
Matthew Creed stranded in Schiphol Amsterdam Airport (Matthew Creed/PA)

Analysis of flight data websites by the PA news agency shows at least 281 flights – including departures and arrivals – were cancelled on Tuesday at the UK’s six busiest airports.

The former drama teacher, who worked in Hong Kong for three years, was initially flying from the former British city to Edinburgh with a stopover in Doha on Qatar Airways – he planned to see his family in Scotland before beginning his master’s degree in drama in London.

When he arrived in Hong Kong, Qatar Airways informed him that his ticket was on standby.

Upon arrival in Doha, he was notified that he did not have a seat on the flight to Edinburgh, which was “nerve-racking” for him.

Matthew Creed stranded in Amsterdam Airport
Long queues at Amsterdam Airport (Matthew Creed/PA)

Qatar then transferred him on a KLM flight to Amsterdam – he arrived at 3am on Monday only to discover the Dutch airliner had cancelled his next flight to Edinburgh.

“(I) got to Amsterdam about three o’clock yesterday, waiting for the next flight about 4.50am, and then realised there was a massive queue in the middle of the airport,” he told the PA news agency.

“People were heading towards the exit or towards desks for KLM, who were operating the flight that Qatar had put me on.

“Then I looked at the board and realised my flight was cancelled.”

KLM booked him a new flight to Edinburgh departing at 9.50pm on Tuesday, however, he had to spend the night at Amsterdam Airport waiting for the flight.

Matthew Creed stranded in Amsterdam Airport
Passengers sleeping at Amsterdam Airport overnight on seats and folding beds (Matthew Creed/PA)

Mr Creed explained it was “not ideal” sleeping on a folding bed with “pillows and blankets” in the airport.

He said: “They were helping people for a long amount of time, there were long queues, and there were only four or five agents trying to help people.

“Then they just kind of said we’re closing all of their desks and everybody needs to find their own accommodation or find out their own way to sort things out.

“We heard that there was a gate at the end of the airport where they were putting out pillows and blankets and things, so that’s where we had to sleep last night… which wasn’t ideal.”

Matthew Creed stranded in Amsterdam Airport
Matthew Creed’s bed at Amsterdam Airport (Matthew Creed/PA)

Mr Creed paid for access to KLM’s Crown Lounges at Amsterdam Airport in order to have a shower and eat some food, with the hope of being reimbursed for the cost.

The 26-year-old was informed by KLM the next morning that it had booked a hotel for him.

He said: “I was told, actually, we had a hotel booked for you last night, why didn’t you stay there?

“I said, nobody has emailed me and let me know… I wasn’t able to speak to someone because all the desks were closed.

“So I stayed in the airport for no reason.”

Another disrupted passenger, Michael McDonnell, a 28-year-old consultant from London, became stranded in Berlin with his partner Sarah, 28, for three nights after their British Airways flight was cancelled.

Picture of Michael McDonnell
Michael McDonnell (Michael McDonnell/PA)

The consultant was meant to fly to Heathrow Airport from Berlin Brandenburg Airport at 9.20am on Monday before his flight was cancelled.

He said he received “very little communication” from the British airliner before being notified that he and his partner had been rebooked on a flight leaving on August 31, stranding them for three nights.

“They told us we need to give them a call to change and rebook our flight online, but we couldn’t get access online because the website wasn’t working,” Mr McDonnell told PA.

Air traffic control system fault
Passengers at Heathrow Airport as disruption from air traffic control issues continues across the UK and Ireland (Lucy North/PA)

“We couldn’t call them as their line was too busy and then it would hang up.

“We did end up getting through to someone and we got rebooked onto the next flight on Thursday morning.”

The couple returned to the city centre of Berlin and rebooked at a hotel they had previously visited for their bank holiday weekend.

He explained: “They (British Airways) didn’t pay for the hotel, we paid for it.

“We paid £150 per night for the hotel.”

In a statement, British Airways said: “Like other airlines operating in the UK, we are continuing to experience the knock-on effects of yesterday’s NATS Air Traffic Control issue, which includes unavoidable delays and cancellations.

“Customers travelling today or tomorrow on short-haul services can move their flight to a later date free of charge if they wish, subject to availability.

“We’ve apologised for the huge inconvenience caused, which was outside of our control and thank our customers for their patience as we work hard to get back on track.”

PA has contacted Qatar Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for comment.