19 April 2024

Travellers ‘sleeping on floor and missing medication’ amid Dubai airport chaos

19 April 2024

A Dublin woman and her 69-year-old father have been left “exhausted” and without access to his medication after being forced to sleep in a Dubai airport when their flight home was cancelled.

People are experiencing travel disruption because of the unprecedented floods in Dubai – by the end of Tuesday, more than 14cm (5.59 inches) of rain had soaked Dubai over 24 hours.

One man said he witnessed a bottle being thrown and staff raising their voices amid “swarms of people” in “disorganised” queues.

More than 800 flights departing from Dubai International Airport have been delayed over Thursday and Friday, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.

Dubai Airports said: “This is the heaviest rainfall the UAE received in 75 years and we’re doing all we can to get operations back to normal.”

One of those waiting at Dubai International Airport is Sarah Jane Cahill, 42, from Dublin, who had planned to board her connecting flight from Sydney to Dublin on Thursday afternoon, but was still at the airport on Friday night.

She said that “thousands are stranded” and that the airport was “a sea of bodies on every surface” overnight.

“There were people in chairs, couches, on the floor outside bathrooms, sleeping on cardboard,” she told the PA news agency.

“So many people with young children forced to sleep on the ground. The airport was packed last night, I don’t know how there wasn’t a stampede.

“There were also whole families sleeping on the buggies that take the elderly around the airport, it was utter chaos with crowding yesterday.”

Her father and his partner, 70, neither of whom Ms Cahill wished to name, had no access to their bags which contain their medication, the nature of which Ms Cahill did not want to disclose. 

Ms Cahill said she has “no idea” where the bags are, and they have not been able to talk to any members of staff in order to retrieve them.

She said she and her father will have to sleep in the airport again on Friday night, and described the food they were provided with as “insulting”.

She said: “(It’s) a disaster. You can’t get through on any of the phone numbers and the desks are completely understaffed. There is no management present and no one has apologised.

“When we landed in Dubai we were on the ground for 90 minutes before we disembarked because we had no passenger chute or staff to operate it.”

Ms Cahill’s connecting flight was scheduled to take off at 3.15pm on Thursday, but was delayed and then eventually cancelled on Friday.

“The situation is being handled really poorly,” she said.

“We are all exhausted.”

Patrick Killen, 18, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, had been waiting in a queue at the airport for six hours after arriving at 2pm local time on Friday, having missed his connection to Heathrow because of the delays.

He told PA: “When we arrived in Dubai I was expecting some help or signage saying where I was supposed to go if I missed or needed to rebook a flight. But I just came out of the plane to find swarms of people around the help desks, no clear order, not sure if this is where I was supposed to go.”

Mr Killen said they were provided with food and drinks, “but again no order, people just took three to four cans or bottles each.”

He added: “They’ve just started throwing food at us – croissants.”

Mr Killen said that at one point, a man “who seemed quite frustrated” asked if the staff could streamline the process of checking passengers’ passports.

He said: “The worker didn’t take this well and started shouting which caused the crowd to also shout and ended up with someone throwing a bottle of water and all the staff on one of the desks to leave and (they) did not return for 10 minutes at least.”

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