Furious families have slammed Jet2 and Leeds Bradford Airport for ‘shattering the dreams’ of 40 terminally-ill children, after they cancelled an annual flight with Santa just days before take-off.
The budget airline axed the flight claiming they had not been told the level of medical care the children would need.
A number of children and carers from Martin House Children’s Hospice, were scheduled to fly.
Leeds Bradford Airport have since apologised for any upset caused and admit it was incorrect to cite ‘unexpected scheduling change’ as the reason for the Santa Flight being cancelled.
The flight had been due to take off from the West Yorkshire airport on December 13 and allow the children to meet Santa while circling in UK airspace.
However Jet2 claim Leeds Bradford had not discussed the number of passengers with them or passed on details of the children’s individual needs.
Jet2 had taken over the flight from Monarch after they went bust in October but claim they couldn’t now provide a ‘safe and enjoyable flight’ due to the amount of special assistance required.
David and Laura Venner’s 18-month-old son Oliver suffers from cystic fibrosis and had been invited on the annual flight.
They claim they were ‘heartbroken’ and ‘hysterical’ to learn the flight had been cancelled.
The couple, along with other angry parents whose children were invited on the trip, are now calling on Jet2 and Leeds Bradford Airport to reschedule the flight or offer an alternative for what could be their children’s last Christmas.
Laura, 35, from Leeds, said: ‘It’s shocking how they’ve let families down when some children are very ill and this will probably be their very last Christmas.
‘Their dreams are shattered after the news was broken about it being cancelled.
‘Daily life [caring for Oliver and his sister, Maisie, who also has cystic fibrosis] is stressful, hard work, tiring and exhausting.
‘Oliver requires constant 24/7 round-the-clock care, with feeds, intense physio and constant medication to keep him well.
‘He spent six months in hospital from birth and is now fed through a feeding machine. He’s nil by mouth and blind.
‘He cannot sit unaided, he can’t walk and, like his twin sister Maisie, he can’t crawl or talk.
‘He’s always monitored closely and this is why we rely on respite for a bit of a break so we can enjoy time as a family together rather than just feeling like we are more like his carers than his parents.
‘We don’t know how long we have got with Oliver so having a magical Christmas for him and us as a family making memories is very important to us. Time is very precious to us now.
‘He’s such a warrior, he’s shown us how far he’s come fighting each day to be here. We didn’t think we would ever be able to bring him home from hospital.’
Maisie and Oliver’s dad, David, are now planning to take their five children to see Santa elsewhere but claim nothing will make up for the look on their children’s faces when they broke the news.
David, 46, who also has three other children, said: ‘It’s as low as you can get, we are angry and disappointed.
‘To have to explain to the kids that it’s been cancelled, they don’t understand that. They can’t understand why Santa doesn’t want to meet them.
‘My daughter, Abbie, who’s four, was in hysterics last night. She and my two-year-old Thomas were getting quite upset.
‘When we saw her face, she was heartbroken. We had to explain that the company wouldn’t let Santa use the plane but she doesn’t understand.
‘Many of those children are terminally ill. For some of them this could be their last chance to do this.’
A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that we were recently approached about the possibility of operating a Santa Flight at the request of Leeds Bradford Airport, following the collapse of another airline who previously operated these flights.
‘Despite our best efforts to operate this flight at very late notice, we were provided with an inadequate level of detail required to operate a safe and enjoyable flight, such as special assistance and medical requirements, or passenger numbers.
‘As a result, a decision was taken with the airport to look at operating a Santa Flight next year, and we are already in discussion with them about making this a truly memorable flight.
‘In an email to Martin House, Leeds Bradford Airport attributed this to an ‘unexpected scheduling change’ which was not the case and which they have since acknowledged was incorrect.
‘We sincerely apologise for any upset that this has caused, however the health, safety and well-being of everybody onboard our aircraft is our number one priority and we will never compromise on that.’
Chief executive of Martin House, Martin Warhurst, said: ‘We are incredibly disappointed that the Search for Santa flight could not go ahead.
‘We were offered the opportunity for some of our families to take places on the flight, however we were advised last week that the flight could not take place.
‘Once we were informed by the airport that the flight would not go ahead, we contacted our families as quickly as possible to let them know.
‘I know that this has been very disappointing for some families and I offer my sincere apologies for the distress that this may have caused.
‘Christmas is an important time at Martin House and our focus is always on providing opportunities for families to celebrate together and create special memories.’
A Leeds Bradford Airport spokesman said: ‘Leeds Bradford Airport recognises that it was incorrect to cite ‘unexpected scheduling change’ as the reason for the Santa Flight being cancelled.
‘The airport apologies for any confusion and upset caused. We look forward to working with Jet2.com to look at operating a Santa Flight next year.’
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