Children were left “inconsolable” after they were told their dream trip to Lapland was cancelled as they sat at an airport gate waiting to board their flight.
The Hunter and Quinn families were brimming with excitement after booking a visit to see Father Christmas, complete with snowmobile rides, huskies and reindeer, in Finland.
But they were devastated when they discovered the delays to their flight from Newcastle Airport because of a frosty windscreen had led to a cancellation, after another passenger spotted an update online.
After their flight was delayed by two-and-a-half hours they were finally told it would not be taking off.
They say police were called down to the lounge in case trouble broke out as hundreds of passengers realised they would not be going on their winter wonderland adventure.
Michael Hunter, 43, from Hylton Castle, who runs eVolve Data Solutions, and his wife Kathleen, 43, a logistics planner for IAC in Southwick Industrial Estate, had booked up for their children Jay, 14, who attends St Robert’s of Newminster Catholic School, Faith, eight, and Zach, five, who go to English Martyr’s RC Primary School Primary in Hylton Red House.
Ideally, we want them to reschedule and put it back on, because fair enough, we’ll get our money back, but that’s not what’s important to us, it’s about the magic for our kids.Michael Hunter
Michael paid £2,400 for the day package, while his cousin Mark Quinn, a gas fitter for EON from Havelock Park, and his wife Mandy, a dental nurse, both 38, spent £1,900 on a booking for them and their son Josh, six, a pupil at St Cuthbert’s in Grindon, and Mark’s mum Dorothy, 68.
They have been told they will get a refund and a £50 voucher per person from the firm, but are calling on tour operator Thomsons to fulfil their children’s dream by rescheduling Sunday’s trip or another festive break.
Michael said: “When we got to the gate, there was no representative of Thomsons, just ground staff, who were good, but it was delayed and delayed again.
“Because we had been before with Jay, we knew we were losing valuable time because you still come back at the same time.
“A rumour started that it was saying on the internet it had been cancelled, but that wasn’t relayed to us.
“My daughter was inconsolable.
“There was one single dad and he had brought this trip for them for their Christmas.
“Everyone was absolutely devastated.
“Ideally, we want them to reschedule and put it back on, because fair enough, we’ll get our money back, but that’s not what’s important to us, it’s about the magic for our kids.”
Mandy, who had kept the trip a secret until she woke Josh up to show their Elf on a Shelf holding his passport, said: “Honestly, we couldn’t believe it, it was heartbreaking.
“Josh was all dressed in his Christmas jumper and we showed him all the snow gloves and hat we’d got for him to wear where we were going, he was so excited.
“What happened was a complete shambles. We had got to the airport for 5am and we were still sitting there at 9.45am.
“We’re so bitter about what happened, it’s disgraceful.”
Thomsons, which is owned by TUI, has been contacted for comment.
In a letter to customers, it apologised and said the issued had been down to a technical issue caused by adverse weather.
It invites them to amend their trip date and states: “We appreciate how disappointing the cancellation will be for you and your family. “We’d like to reassure you that the decision wasn’t made lightly and was done with the safety of our customers in mind.”