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Irish skiers 'threatened by police' as airport ordeal enters second day

Holidaymakers say they were also intimidated by airport staff, and told they would have to leave the facility for an emergency shelter.

Updated at 2.40pm

IRISH SKIERS TRAPPED in an airport in the French Alps have rejected claims made by their tour operator, Crystal Ski, that it paid for their hotel accommodation last night.

Hundreds of Irish holidaymakers have been trapped at Chambery Airport since yesterday morning, after problems with their flight back to Dublin.

Their 11am flight aboard carrier Jet 2 was postponed, as the plane couldn’t land at the facility due to poor weather.

They eventually boarded a flight at around 5pm yesterday, only to be told by the pilot that would have to disembark once again, due to a problem with the aircraft’s door, which was clipped by the passenger stairs.

The passengers were told they would have to spend the night at emergency accommodation at an auditorium some 30 minutes away. However, most opted to remain in the airport, as they weren’t being provided with beds at the other venue.

Speaking to this morning, Managing Director of Crystal Ski Ray Scully admitted that some people had spent the night in the airport, but said that hotel accommodation had been secured for others.

However, Crystal Ski customers who saw that article said no-one had been given a hotel room, and that there had been an atmosphere of fear and intimidation overnight, as airport staff insisted people leave the facility for the emergency shelter.

Staff had threatened people attempting to bed down for the night, passenger Karen Miley said.

“We were threatened at the airport that we would have to go to emergency accommodation,” Miley said.

“People were drafted out of here on buses. But they were only offered arena-type seats, and they had to cram into them.”

Most people opted to stay in the airport after being sent photos from the emergency centre via Twitter.

As the night went on, Miley said, armed police were called up to the café area of the airport, where they threatened tired holidaymakers attempting to catch some sleep in slightly more comfortable surroundings, and forced them to leave the area.

Karen Miley Karen Miley

Other planes were taking off and leaving all day yesterday, she said. The Departures information for Chambery today shows most flights departing as normal.

Another holidaymaker, Jen Gordon — who is flying with her father — said they hadn’t received any food vouchers from their reps since lunchtime yesterday.

“I spent the night trying to grab 40 winks in a chair in the smaller room with about 30 people ranging in age from approx 4 years to my 78 year old dad sleeping on the cold hard floor,” she said, via email.

I asked about food vouchers, and was told a drop of crisps and water was left in at 4am —which we didn’t see and to be honest that doesn’t constitute breakfast.

Customers have complained of a lack of information being given by Crystal Ski and by airline reps, with another passenger describing the situation as “incredibly frustrating”.

Some made contact with the Irish embassy in Paris to see if anything could be done. A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they were aware of the situation, and were monitoring it.

Speaking to us earlier, Scully (the Crystal Ski boss) said that in some isolated cases, reps may have lost contact with head office, but paid tribute to his team for their efforts since yesterday morning, adding that there was a “state of emergency” in the region.

Another plane load of Irish skiers due to fly out yesterday spent the night in hotels in Dublin, and finally departed at 9.30am today.

It could be after 6pm before customers stranded in Chambery can board their plane back to Ireland, Scully said.

Several passengers said they had no real confidence the flight would go ahead.

Some of the group are already making alternative arrangements to get home, they said.

On its website, Jet 2 said all cancelled flights from yesterday had been rescheduled for today, and that the Dublin flight was now listed for 6.30pm.

It added…

All above times are local times and are subject to change.

Heavy snowfall in the region has been causing major transport problems since yesterday.

Snow and ice in the region trapped some 15,000 vehicles travelling to and from ski resorts.

Emergency shelters were set up in around 20 towns, with more than 7,000 places, and authorities urged people to abandon their travel plans for the day and seek accommodation where they could.

There had been hardly any snow since the start of the season — but with falls of up to two feet expected in some areas this weekend, the country declared an orange weather alert, its second highest warning.

AFP news agency / YouTube

Google Maps Google Maps

Gyms and community halls were opened up all over the Alpine Savoy region last night, and according to one French newspaper, motorists seeking accommodation “stormed” the exhibition centre in Chambery.

Gavin Rigby — a British driver who spoke to BBC News — said it had taken him 11 hours to drive between Val d’Isere and Bourg Saint Maurice – a journey that normally takes 30 minutes.

Elsewhere, a man died after his car slid into a ravine in the Isere region.

Read: Look out, there’s ice everywhere this morning – and it’s going to get colder again tonight

Read: Firefighters have been battling this blaze at a Carlow factory all through the night

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