North Wales travellers caught up in flight chaos

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

PEOPLE across the region faced travel chaos yesterday as a huge cloud of volcanic ash crippled airports.

All flights in and out of the UK were suspended amid fears the cloud, caused by an eruption in Iceland, would damage aircraft engines..

At one point safety body Eurocontrol said up to 4,000 flights across northern Europe had been affected.

And travellers at Manchester and Liverpool airports faced further uncertainty today.

No flights were expected to be allowed in UK airspace until at least 7am, leaving thousands of passengers grounded and operators with huge backlogs.

A Wales schools football squad used Gresford as an assembly point after their flight to a vital game in Ireland was cancelled.

And one Wrexham travel agent was left frantically trying to help customers stranded after the dust cloud drifted south across the UK.

Mike Bellingham, owner of Denbighshire Travel in Wrexham town centre, said business customers were stuck in German cities, including Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich.

All had been left in Europe after flight cancellations at Manchester Airport.

Mr Bellingham said: “Obviously, we couldn’t do much about the flights but we have been doing everything we can to make hotel arrangements. The problem has been that with everyone in the same situation hotel rooms were filling up fast.

“Exactly how long this will last nobody knows. We are in the lap of the gods.”

After their 1.15pm flight from Liverpool to Belfast fell victim to restrictions, young players and coaches of the Welsh Schools U18s squad were left trying to arrange sea passage in time for their Centenary Shield match against Northern Ireland in Belfast tonight.

Wrexham FC officials invited them to use the Colliers Park training ground in Gresford for a warm-up session for players from across Wales.

Coach and selector Cledwyn Ashford, of Cefnybedd, said: “The match is being televised on Sky, so we just cannot afford to miss it.

“After hearing that our flight was cancelled we spent hours on the phone trying to arrange a ferry. We eventually got a place and will sail from Holyhead to Dublin and then get a coach from there to Belfast.”

Mr Ashford said the squad expected to reach their hotel at about 3am today.

He added: “This has been a total nightmare and will financially cripple us.

“We are very grateful to Wrexham FC for letting us gather at Colliers Park.”

Player Jamie Crowther, 18, from Leeswood near Mold, said: “I am just happy we will still be getting over to Ireland because we have been looking forward to this game for a long time.”

See full story in the Leader

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