Tourists stranded in Canary Islands after Saharan sandstorm blows in

Holidaymakers have been stranded at airports in the Canary Islands after a Saharan sandstorm left the destination coated with dust, reducing visibility for aircraft.

Flights from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, North and South Tenerife airports were grounded due to the weather conditions, although customer service staff said the airports remained open for passengers.

Passengers were advised to contact their airline and try to get accommodation for the night if their flight was cancelled.

On Monday morning, airport operator Aena said flights from four of the airports – Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma and North Tenerife – would be able to take off. Those departing South Tenerife continue to be grounded, the statement added.

Passengers have posted photographs of people sitting on the floor waiting for more information.

Greg Horsman, 29, was on holiday with his girlfriend and his friends on a Tui cruise and was due to fly home to Manchester on Saturday evening.

However, they have been forced to stay in Gran Canaria for another two nights due to the storm.

“It’s frustrating. We’re just ready to be home,” he said.

“There should be contingency plans for when a weather event grounds flights. They all kept saying ‘Oh we’ve never seen this happen before’ which I understand, it’s a freak of nature, but when weather grounds all flights there is surely a contingency plan that gets put into place so people can get accommodation sorted.”

Graham Whiteman, 30, arrived at Las Palmas airport at 5pm on Saturday night, but discovered his Tui flight back to Doncaster – which he was due to be on with his fiancee and her family – had been cancelled.

He said: “We were told we needed to check the boards for updates.

“We didn’t get any and then at 1.30am we found a Tui rep, who then sorted us out with a hotel room on the other side of the island at 4am.

“We got an email at 7.58am saying a coach would be leaving the hotel at 8.30am to take us to the airport and we’ve been here ever since.”

He added: “I am type one diabetic and when I explained to a Tui rep that I will not have enough insulin for the next 24 hours, their response was that they would deal with it when it becomes an emergency.

“The duty of care for their customers is a disgrace, they do not want to take responsibility for anything or anyone. Children and elderly adults having no option but to sit and sleep on the dirty airport floors.”

A spokeswoman for Tui said: “We would like to sincerely apologise to customers for the disruption caused by the adverse and changeable weather conditions. The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority and we are working tirelessly to find the best solutions for all our customers.”

Elsewhere, Britons have posted photographs of the orange sky on the islands as the wind continued to batter seaside towns.

Michael Nixon, who is on holiday in Tenerife with his family to celebrate his 50th birthday and is due to fly home to Newcastle on Wednesday, said “pink dust” had covered his rented apartment balcony.

He said: “It’s all a bit surreal. A heavy mist came in last night followed by very strong gusty winds during the night. This morning we awoke to yellowish haze and strong winds.
“We ventured out but it’s difficult to see with all of the sand in the air. We are slightly concerned that our flight home on Wednesday could be affected.”

Meanwhile in the UK, flights out to the Canary Islands are being delayed or cancelled due to the sandstorm.

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