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Family ‘stunned’ by yet another cancellation at airport

by Louise Doyle

l.doyle@donegalnews.com

The son of a seriously ill cancer patient who missed out on receiving vital treatment in Cork when a flight was cancelled by Stobart Air has hit out at the airline, branding the move as “disgraceful”.
Danny Gallagher, from Gaoth Dobhair, says he has been left feeling “angry” and “extremely upset” following the cancellation of last Thursday morning’s flight to Dublin, which, he says, left him and his 79-year-old mother, Margaret, unable to make the first leg of their journey.
Speaking to the Donegal News yesterday, (Thursday), Mr Gallagher said flight cancellations were happening “all too often” and he accused Stobart Air, operator of Aer Lingus Regional, of neglecting to take on board the seriousness of the situation.
He says he fears the delay in his mother’s treatment could offset further upset and ill health.
“My mum has been undergoing cancer treatment since my father died suddenly last year. We were down in Galway for most of the summer last year where my mum had six weeks of radiotherapy at Galway University Hospital. The cancer cleared up but unfortunately, she has since been diagnosed with secondary cancer. She has a tumour at the top of her nose, between her eyes, and has had most of her nose removed. We were travelling to Cork for specialised chemotherapy treatment as it is the only place in Ireland where it is offered.”
Continuing, Mr Gallagher said he was left ‘stunned’ when he received a call on Wednesday night of last week from Donegal Airport informing him the flight, scheduled for early the next day had been cancelled.
When he asked of the reason behind the cancellation, Mr Gallagher said he was told it was due to staff shortages. He said he was not offered a re-imbursement or alternative travel arrangements.
“It’s not good enough that flights are constantly being cancelled. I had toyed with the idea of taking my mother to Cork via car, but she is too ill for that length of a journey, which would only add to her distress.
“Aer Lingus have been totally unhelpful about this. They are funded so I am sure they must be legally obliged to carry out their contract. If the cancellation was down to a staff shortage, could staff not have been sent from elsewhere?”
Mr Gallagher described the service as a “lifeline”, adding that the airline has “the lives of seriously ill patients in their hands”.
“This is happening on an all to regular basis and it’s not good enough. They (Aer Lingus) have the lives of seriously ill patients in their hands and all of this is putting more and more pressure on health services locally and further afield.
“This is a lifeline for my mother and others like her. She is absolutely devastated by this and is very weak. It’s disgraceful. I am really angry, to be honest.
“I have booked another flight for Wednesday night for my mum’s appointment on Thursday. Hopefully all of this hasn’t delayed her treatment. Having to wait can be a matter of life and death, every second counts.”
Elsewhere, Independent TD., Thomas Pringle has called on the Minister for Transport to intervene with the PSO operator Stobart Air at Donegal Airport follwing last week’s cancellation.
“That was the eighth flight cancellation this month. I have also learned that there were 23 flight cancellations in December 2015. Stobart Air have informed me that the cancellations have been due to a combination of technical problems and extreme weather.
“Stobart Air have the PSO contract from Carrickfin and what is more annoying about this spate of cancellations is that they operated out of Carrickfin previously with the same type of aeroplane yet they did not have the same volume of cancellations. Surely when they tendered for the contract they were aware of any potential challenges and should have prepared properly for them.
“Stobart Air has informed me they had three cancellations in January due to technical problems. This appears to me an excessive amount of problems that warrants investigation by the Department of Transport. I have contacted the Minister asking him to investigate this matter.
“The airline is receiving taxpayers’ money to provide this service and it is vital for the ongoing development of Donegal Airport that the service works properly.”
However, in a statement for Stobart Air, operator of Aer Lingus Regional, a spokesperson said last week’s cancellation was due to weather issues, and refuted claims the airline has not been delivering for its users, particularly seriously ill patients.
“Aer Lingus Regional has been flying the Donegal Dublin PSO route since February 2015. In this time, 99.6 per cent of flights have flown as scheduled, excluding weather related cancellations.
“In addition, 85 per cent of these flights have flown within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.
“In the instance of flight cancellations, Aer Lingus Regional provides all customers with alternative transport arrangements or the option of a refund.”

Cancer patient, Margaret Gallagher

Cancer patient, Margaret Gallagher

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