200 passengers stranded in Bulgaria overnight after flight due for Norwich diverted
PUBLISHED: 13:43 22 June 2018 | UPDATED: 21:47 22 June 2018
Around 200 passengers destined for Norwich have been stranded in Bulgaria after their flight from Cyprus made an emergency landing.
The delay and lack of communication has ruined two weddings, a honeymoon and an engagement for Norwich couples due to return home.
27-year-old Jack Weaver and his wife Ellie had been on board the flight due to land in Norwich Airport yesterday evening when they smelled smoke.
“We got an hour into the flight and we smelled a smoky, burning smell we reported to the cabin crew,” he said.
“They did absolutely everything they should and diverted the flight to Sofia, but that is when it all started to break down.”
He said after crew let them disembark the plane so they were “more comfortable” they were left in a room with metal seats and concrete floors for six to seven hours.
“Since we got off the plane we have heard nothing from the tour operator,” he added. “We were left with three Bulgarian airport staff.
“They were frantically sorting out hotels for us but did not tell any of us until people started leaving.”
The passengers included a wedding party of 19 people and six children, and Mr Weaver said some groups had been split up across different hotels, and were running low on milk and nappies.
“It is pretty poor to be honest,” he said. “Nobody is expecting miracles but we are in a country we did not plan to go to and none of us have any Bulgarian currency.”
The Weavers were assured they could use Euros despite not being in the Eurozone, which led to a nasty encounter with their taxi driver to the hotel.
“He asked for a five Euro tip,” he said. “We scraped together three Euros and he threatened to throw our bags out of the taxi and launched the coins into the carriageway and sped off wheels spinning. “My wife was crying her eyes out and said she had never been so scared. It was quite frightening.”
Mr Weaver has said they have now been ordered out of their hotels by staff in “torrential rain and thunder” with no currency and told to make their own way to the airport.
Danny Gowler, 27, and his new wife Rebekah, 25, were married in Cyprus on June 13. The last week has been spent as their honeymoon, and while they were abroad his best man and his girlfriend got engaged.
Mr Gowler said: “The situation at the moment is a lot of uncertainty. We have been left on our own and we just feel really let down. They left us for nearly seven hours after we landed without hearing anything.
“Some of the elderly people on the plane have had a really bad experience. There is people running out of medication like people who are diabetic running our of insulin. They are not accepting our debit cards out here so people can’t get nappies for the children. We are looking on the bright side that we don’t have children to look after.”
Mr Gowler said they have a wedding reception booked in Taverham tomorrow which cost in the region of £2,000 and have left their dogs in kennels which need collecting.
The married couple from the wedding party of 19, all from Norwich, have also spent their first days of married life stranded in the foreign country.
They have been put up in a hotel with a one-year-old baby.
29-year-old Nicola Chadwick is one of their group.
“We still do not know anything,” she said. “We are a party of 19 adults and six children split over two hotels. We have heard different things from different people. The last thing we heard the engineer has got to be flown out. “We can’t get milk or nappies and one of the babies is 10 months old. They had enough for the flight but we might be here all day.”
Ms Chadwick said single people without children were given the first hotel allocations, and children and elderly people were left in terminal for hours.
“There was an elderly man on his own with no phone - he had nothing. One of our group lent him her phone because the airport staff didn’t understand him.”
A TUI spokesman said: “We would like to apologise to all customers on flight TOM5483 from Paphos to Norwich on 21st June 2018 which diverted to Sofia, Bulgaria last night due to a technical issue. All customers have been provided with meals and overnight accommodation.
“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding and hope to have them on their way as soon as possible.
“We are currently assessing the issue and will update customers directly through the hotel where they will remain until we have a confirmed departure time.
“We try to share up to date information as soon as possible with customers and take all feedback on board to look at how we can make improvements in future.
“We’d like to take this opportunity to reassure everyone that the safety of our customers and crew is of paramount importance.