Northern Ireland

Storm Frank: Passengers unable to leave planes at Belfast airport

Belfast International Airport
Image caption Belfast International Airport said strong winds were unsafe for staff and passengers

Passengers flying into Belfast International Airport were prevented from getting off planes for a time on Tuesday night due to high winds.

At one stage, winds were gusting at 55 knots and winds over 48 knots are not safe for airport staff to work in.

As a result, passengers on nine planes were unable to leave as it was too windy to put access steps in place.

Some passengers were kept on planes for two hours, but wind speeds eventually dropped, allowing them to disembark.

Agitated

Flights from Edinburgh, Tenerife, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Gatwick and Bristol landed, but flights, from Luton and Tenerife were diverted to Dublin.

Image copyright Rob Brown
Image caption Passengers flying out of Belfast International Airport on Tuesday night faced delays

Belfast man Martin Garland was on a flight from Liverpool that landed at 19:30 GMT.

Speaking from the plane, he said: "People are starting to get irritated now and there's a number of elderly passengers that are now getting agitated with the heat on the plane," he said.

"Most people seem to be playing on their phones, the pilot has been getting people up into the cockpit and letting the kids play."

Bouncing

Thomas Spence, who arrived at the airport on a flight from Tenerife, was unable to reclaim his luggage as baggage handlers could not unload baggage from the plane.

Returning to the airport on Wednesday morning to retrieve his bags, he said: "When we were sitting [in the plane], it was rocking on the tarmac.

"You actually thought you were still in the air.

Image caption Thomas Spence said passengers watched a film as they were kept on their plane for two hours

"But it was good to be on the ground because it was a rough flight, it was bouncing everywhere, and we were just glad to get touched down.

"When you came off the plane, it was really windy and you could understand why we were stuck on the plane."

Horrendous

Alan Whiteside, the airport's operations director, said the weather conditions had been "probably the worst we've had in quite a number of years".

"The real issue is the safety of the both personnel operating the steps and the aircraft doors, and the passengers," he said.

"In those kind of winds, those large-sided steps will just start to move, so it's unsafe to put them on unsafe to try to get passengers off.

"It was a fairly horrendous night."