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Pregnant woman on anniversary holiday among thousands stranded abroad by air traffic control meltdown

Pregnant woman on anniversary holiday among thousands stranded abroad by air traffic control meltdown

A pregnant woman who travelled to Greece to celebrate her first wedding anniversary is among thousands of passengers left stranded abroad, as UK air travelcontinues to reel from a major air traffic control meltdown.

Around 200,000 people saw their flights cancelled on Monday after a technical fault with National Air Traffic Services systems led to 1,500 planes being grounded and many thousands more delayed.

Despite the issue being fixed on Monday, the major disruption to tightly-packed bank holiday schedules continues to cause chaos in UK flight schedules – with many passengers now facing the prospect of being stuck overseas for more than a week.

Lucy Chang, who is six months pregnant, and her husband Iain Hawthorn initially faced a 10-day wait to return from the Greek island of Rhodes, where they had been celebrating their first anniversary, after their flight to Gatwick on Monday was cancelled.

With no option to book a hotel through the EasyJet app, the couple, aged 35 and 37 respectively, had to arrange their own accommodation – with all of the airline’s 29 flights from Rhodes to Gatwick between Tuesday and next Thursday showing on the app as having sold out.

After waiting in the EasyJet chat queue for seven hours on Tuesday, an adviser told them to book with an alternative carrier and submit claims for review. But they were unable to confirm whether their extra accommodation would be compensated.

The adviser then “ended the chat on her own accord without asking if we needed any further assistance”, Mr Hawthorn alleged.

The couple has since been able to secure flights on Thursday, but have been forced to pay “well over £1,500” including the additional accommodation, Mr Hawthorn told The Independent. Ms Chang will have to miss a prenatal glucose test and a midwifery appointment, her husband said.

Iain Hawthorn and Lucy Chang pictured ‘during happier times’ on a visit to Symi, near Rhodes

(Lucy Chang)

The couple said it had been “an extremely frustrating time”, adding: “Ultimately, we wasted a full day seeking clarification on next steps and were essentially told to find our own way home with no support or assurance that we would be reimbursed after being on hold all day.”

EasyJet told The Independent it was “reaching out to Ian and Lucy to ensure they are reimbursed promptly”.

Meanwhile, Bart Somsen – whose…

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