Ipswich family's dream holiday to Lapland turns to disaster as they're caught up in Gatwick Airport drone drama
PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:50 22 December 2018
A family endured 11 hours of nervous waiting at Gatwick Airport, for a flight to Lapland that never took off.
The £3,000 trip to visit Santa and his reindeers in Lapland had been planned as a surprise holiday of a lifetime for Alice Crozier-Green, her three children - Gabriel, 7, Isaac, 11 and Louis, 13, and her partner.
Alice, a 41 year-old who teaches children in care for the Raedwald Trust, had been planning the holiday all year.
A trip to see husky dogs and a reindeer safari had been booked, as well as a visit to meet Santa for Gabriel, who attends Dale Hall Community Primary School.
Alice had spent the last two weeks excitedly dropping clues about the secret holiday to her children, using Gabriel’s Elf on the Shelf. The Elf had finally revealed the big surprise to them all on Sunday.
The family left their home near Norwich Road in Ipswich at 7.30am on Thursday.
Despite warnings in the news about the catastrophe unfolding at Gatwick, Alice explained that their airline, Finn Air, advised them to leave anyway, as the flight had not been cancelled.
“There is often travel disruption at this time of year, so we assumed it would resolve itself,” said Alice. “I didn’t in a million years think that what unfolded would ever happen to us.”
When the family arrived at Gatwick South Terminal, Alice says everything was “so chaotic”.
“The check in desks were all closed, but the rep said the flight would still go ahead, so because we only had hand luggage with us, we went straight through security.
“But it was like a ghost town. There was nobody else going through there except us.”
The family set up camp in the airport’s Jamie’s Italian restaurant, where they spent the next gruelling ten hours. The flight information board kept stating that their flight was simply delayed, not cancelled.
“My saving grace was that Gabriel is a massive Lego fan and had bought with him a pencil case of Lego, and we also had pens and paper, so at least they had something to do.
“But Gabriel was devastated and cried all afternoon, and Isaac too. At that age, they didn’t understand. He kept saying ‘it’s ok, the elf will fix it for us.’ He lives in this fantasy world.
“He had put away a mince pie for Santa, which was all squashed by the end of the day.”
The departure lounge was starting to empty, because passengers were told to leave as more and more flights were cancelled - but not Finn air’s.
Then, after 11 hours of waiting at the airport, their restaurant finally closed too. “The staff very nicely chucked us out. We were literally sitting in South Terminal departure lounge, it was surreal and eerie because it was so empty - just us, one other family and one couple, all in the same predicament. Then at about 9pm, the police told us we had to go because they were closing this part of the terminal. It was such a disappointment for us.
“The drone pilot should be really ashamed of themselves, this has had such a damaging impact on so many families all over the world at what should be a very special time of year.
“It’s really sad that the world has come to this.”
Despite being desperately sad about having lost their holiday, and then finding out that they could not claim any money back, Alice says they had all received “faultless service” at Gatwick, which restored her faith in humanity.
“At Jamie’s diner, they gave the kids free ice cream all afternoon, and drinks. When all the restaurants shut at 7pm, they handed us cakes, fruit, pastries - even free sushi from one place. The staff were all magnificent, even the police were so kind.”
When Alice apologised to Gabriel for all the disappointment he had suffered, her son replied: “we must remember the things we do have...we’ve still had an adventure.”
“My children know how lucky they are in the grand scheme of things, when there is so much suffering in the world,” she said.