WHEN THE PHONE rang for Danny Gallagher last Wednesday evening, he didn’t know that it would bring news that could put his mother’s health in jeopardy.
It was a call informing him that her flight to Dublin from Donegal Airport at 8am the next morning had been cancelled.
His mother Margaret Gallagher – who has secondary cancer – would now be unable to attend her appointment at Cork University Hospital.
It has since been rescheduled for two weeks’ time.
“I hope by the time that we get down to Cork, they can do this procedure,” Danny Gallagher told TheJournal.ie.
The last thing we want them to say is that the delay has cost your mum, and we can’t do anything for her.
At least 26 flights have been cancelled out of Donegal in the past two months due to a number of factors, including weather and technical faults.
The Stobart Air service – flying out of the Carrickfinn airport – is operated on behalf of the Aer Lingus regional service and has held the Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract for the route since February 2015.
This sees the route subsidised by taxpayer money to ensure that a necessary social service is provided.
Commenting on the cancellations, independent TD Thomas Pringle said: “Surely, when they tendered for the contract they were aware of any potential challenges and should have prepared properly for them.”
The airline told TheJournal.ie that eight flights had been cancelled in January, with 18 more cancelled in December – mostly because of the extreme weather conditions.
In response to the difficulties faced by Margaret Gallagher, Stobart Air have said:
We can confirm that Dublin – Donegal bound EI3408 was cancelled on Wednesday, 20 January due to a technical issue on the aircraft. As a direct result, the following morning’s Donegal – Dublin bound EI3401 flight was also cancelled.
Passengers due to fly on Thursday morning were all informed of the flight cancellation before 9pm on Wednesday evening so as to afford them with as much time as possible to make alternative arrangements.
The company went on to say that it sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused and that, not including weather-related cancellations, more than 99% of its flights had flown as scheduled in the past year.
It also said that 85% of flights take off within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.
Travelling for medical appointments
While alternative transport to Dublin was laid on by the airline for other passengers, it wasn’t adequate for Danny’s mother Margaret.
“It would have been a minimum of four hours to take the bus down to Dublin, and then another three hours down to Cork. That isn’t something someone in my mother’s condition is able to do,” Danny said.
Prior to being referred to Cork University Hospital, Margaret had been receiving treatment in University Hospital Galway.
The treatment she receives in Cork is electrochemotherapy, a specialised treatment only available in a handful of hospitals across Europe.