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'There's no end in sight - we're trapped here' - Elderly couple stuck in Portugal


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Gabrielle Judge and Dominic Ledwidge O’Reilly are stranded in Cabanas de
Tavira in Portugal

Gabrielle Judge and Dominic Ledwidge O’Reilly are stranded in Cabanas de Tavira in Portugal

Gabrielle Judge and Dominic Ledwidge O’Reilly are stranded in Cabanas de Tavira in Portugal

Irish holidaymakers stranded in the Algarve could be stuck there until July.

Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair have grounded all flights from the region and there are growing fears that without Government intervention it could be months before some get home.

Despite still selling flights from Faro to Dublin from May 31, Aer Lingus has confirmed all flights are cancelled indefinitely.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has urged Irish citizens to make contact with the Irish Consulate in Lisbon and notify them of their presence.

Two retired Irish couples have spoken of their frustration after they struggled with multiple cancellations and problems rebooking flights and receiving refunds from Aer Lingus.

Dominic Ledwidge O'Reilly (80) and his wife Gabrielle Judge (75), from Firhouse, Dublin, are in despair after three separate flights from Faro since April 29 were cancelled.

The couple received a refund after the airline was contacted by the Herald but any hopes they had of flying home soon were dashed.

Speaking from their apartment in Cabanas de Tavira, Gabrielle said they were eager to get home.

"We are fed up and feel trapped. We have been here since February 13, and were due to go back on April 30. We have had three cancellations from Aer Lingus," she said.

"We both have underlying health issues and fortunately we have a very good local pharmacist who has helped us, but we have had to pay for a lot of medications."

Gabrielle said they were finding the uncertainty around when they will be able to fly difficult.

"There is no end in sight which is all the more upsetting. We contacted the Irish Consul in Portugal and we haven't heard anything back," she said.

"There are flights going to Dublin from Lisbon but for us to get there it would require us to take a bus, a train and then another train. We would be so exposed to Covid we would be in danger. We cannot possibly risk it."

Dominic, a retired national press photographer, said they were not alone in their plight.

Gardai

"There are other Irish pensioners here who are in the same boat and some of them are very frail," he said.

"We are all looking out for each other and we are trying to keep on the bright side but it's very hard not to feel worried."

Another couple, both retired gardai, from Kilcock, Co Kildare, have also been stranded since April 30.

The couple have continued to pay for their rented apartment, but say the added costs are a major concern for many in the same circumstances.

"We are lucky as we are in a nice two-bedroom apartment and we are paying a reasonable amount of money, but if we have to stay until July or August we are going to have an issue," they said.

"And that is just us. There are a lot of Irish people here in the same boat.

"I think the Government are going to have to repatriate people.

"There are a lot of people affected by this and many of them are elderly."

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs has appealed for anyone experiencing difficulties to make contact.

"Any Irish citizen who believes that an Embassy may not be aware of their presence should register online dfa.ie/travel/citizens-registration," the spokesman said.

"Contact details for the embassy in Lisbon can be found at dfa.ie/portugal."

A spokesperson for Aer Lingus said: "We are reviewing our future operating schedule on an ongoing basis and following guidance from relevant governments in relation to when we will be able to operate particular routes."