Family endure nightmare journey home from Iraq

A family endured a nightmare holiday in which they suffered horrendous flight delays, were flown to the wrong airport, and had to spend an extra three nights in hotels.

Mohammad Arkawazi, 31, from Newton St Faith, has tried to get compensation from the flight operators, Viking Airlines, after travelling with his wife and two sons to his homeland of Iraq for a holiday.

His nightmare journey started on October 18 when they arrived at Sulaymaniyah airport in Iraq for an afternoon flight home, only to be told that it had been delayed until the following morning.

When they arrived the next day, they discovered the flight had been further delayed, so they had to book a hotel in the meantime.

The third time they travelled to the airport they found their flight had again been delayed to 1am the next day.

Mr Arkawazi, a property developer who has lived in the Norwich area about 13 years, said: 'People were furious by this time and things got very unpleasant.

'There was shouting and fighting, and eventually the police took us to a hotel.'

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However, the drama was not over, as when they arrived at the airport for a fourth time, no one knew when the flight was leaving, so they had to go back to the hotel.

They were then told to prepare for a 7.30pm take-off, but it did not leave until 1.30am on October 20.

And then instead of flying to Stockholm Arlanda airport, they were flown to Athens. Their nightmare continued once they got to Stockholm airport, where they had to change planes and then could not find their luggage.

When they eventually arrived at Gatwick, Mr Arkawazi was too tired to drive home, so they spent another night at a hotel.

Mr Arkawazi, of Newton Close, added: 'The whole family, particularly my wife and children were traumatised by these terrible days.

'I have had nightmares since I came home. My wife is refusing to fly again.'

He wrote a letter to complain and ask for compensation, and in reply, Jane Branch, customer relations for Viking Airlines at Gatwick Airport, wrote back apologising but refusing to recompense them. In the letter, she said: 'In accordance with the airlines conditions of carriage, whilst we undertake to carry you with reasonable dispatch and to adhere to published schedules in effect on the date of travel, published times cannot be guaranteed.

'Most of our flights operate to the original schedule and we only alter our customers' plans if absolutely necessary.'

A spokesman for Viking Airlines said today they did not discuss individual cases.

Have you suffered a holiday from hell? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email