Passengers were “saying their prayers” and “in floods of tears” after a trainee TUI pilot was forced to abort a landing during a snowstorm.
Several people were “screaming and crying” as the plane was buffeted around in the “awful” turbulence as Storm Larissa battered the UK last week.
The TUI flight from Tenerife was due at Manchester Airport on Thursday, March 9, at 8pm but the pilot was forced to divert the jet to the East Midlands.
Passenger Gareth Salter told Manchester Evening News: “People were panicking, babies were screaming, women were crying. There were some young girls behind us in floods of tears.
“I was saying my prayers, to be honest. I didn’t think I’d see my family again. It was just awful.”
Heavy snow caused havoc across the north of England on Thursday night, with many roads closed off due to the blizzard conditions.
Dozens of drivers were stuck for several hours on the M62 near Rochdale overnight, while several flights were delayed at Manchester Airport.
Gareth, from Glossop, Derbyshire, criticised TUI for not telling passengers about the diversion until after the plane had landed.
He said: “We knew from the news that the weather was going to be bad, but as soon as were started coming into land it just didn’t feel right. There were crosswinds and we were buffeted about in the turbulence.
“I knew it wasn’t Manchester as soon as we landed.
“Then they came on the speaker and said we were at East Midlands and that it was a trainee pilot and asked us to give him a clap for landing us safely. People were clapping because they still in shock.”
Gareth says the shell-shocked passengers were then “abandoned” at East Midlands and left to find their own way home or arrange hotels.
TUI denies this claim, saying transfers were organised to take customers back to Manchester Airport.
The travel firm says passengers were also offered the choice to make their own way home and claim the costs back or were offered accommodation where it was unsafe to travel.
Gareth and his partner got a hotel for the night then caught a train the next day, eventually getting home at 4pm on Friday.
He said: “It was blizzard conditions outside. The whole place was in uproar.
“Even Greggs stayed open and baked another load of food for everyone.
“There was a two to three hour wait at the taxi rank, but with the weather being as it was everybody should have been put up in a hotel.
“It was frightening experience to begin with, then it just got more and more bizarre as it went on.”
A TUI spokesperson said: “We can confirm that TOM2477 from Tenerife to Manchester Airport on March 9 diverted to East Midlands Airport, due to adverse weather conditions during the approach back to Manchester.
“Customers arrived safely into East Midlands Airport and were made aware of the diversion on arrival.
“Transfers were organised to take customers back to Manchester Airport and accommodation was offered where necessary.
“Customers received regular updates throughout the evening.
“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank customers for their patience and understanding.
“The safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority.”