Boy stranded in Portugal after family taken off holiday jet

A Thomson jet
A Thomson jet

A 17-YEAR-OLD was left stranded in a Portugese airport after a family were removed from a holiday flight.

David Laughton, 39, his partner Sarah Wilson, 28, and their children were ordered from the plane after a row became so “disruptive” the pilot diverted the Lanzarote-bound flight to have them taken off.

Holidaymakers were forced to wait as they were marched away by waiting police officers to be questioned and their bags were removed.

Mr Laughton’s 17-year-old stepson Lee Doram, his 14-year-old son and the couple’s young child who were also with them, were also taken from the plane.

Members of the party were quizzed and were eventually released without charge.

The couple, from Hartlepool, and the two younger children went on to book another flight to get to their holiday destination after an overnight stay in Porto.

But they left behind Mr Laughton’s stepson who had to be rescued by foreign office officials.

The row started during the 2pm Thompson TOM 1444 flight from Newcastle on September 13 as the five-strong party were heading for a two-week all-inclusive break.

Flight staff became so concerned they alerted the pilot who took the decision to divert the plane to Porto airport to have them removed.

A spokesman for Thomson confirmed the incident and said: “We would like to apologise to passengers for any disruption encountered during the flight.

“Unfortunately a party of passengers became disruptive on board and as a last resort, the flight had to be diverted to Portugal.

“Upon landing, the aircraft was met by local police and the passengers were removed from the flight for further questioning.

“In situations such as this, it is the responsibility of the party to organise onward travel arrangements.”

He added: “The flight then departed from Portugal at around 7.24pm and continued to Arrecife, where it landed at 9.36pm.

“We have processes in place to cause minimal disruption in circumstances such as these and other passengers were asked to remain on the plane. The off-loaded passengers’ bags were removed when they were and passed on to them.”

It is believed the incident cost the airline an estimated £35,000.

The spokesman added: “We would like to reassure customers that their safety is our first priority at all times.

“Thomson operates a zero tolerance policy with regards to any disruptive behaviour on board and incidents of this type are extremely rare.”

Lee’s horrified mum, Jannine Bird, who is also mum to the 14-year-old, received a phone call expecting to hear he had arrived safe at his destination – only to discover the shocking truth.

Jannine, who lives with her two kids in Islington, London, said she was left having to desperately make arrangements with the Foreign Office and the British Embassy out in Portugal to get Lee safely home.

And after 24 hours of sitting on seats outside of the police station and airport, a British Embassy official escorted Lee to the consulate building where he stayed until staff there arranged for him to be flown home at a cost of £200 to his single-parent mum. He arrived at Gatwick Airport at 4.30pm on Sunday.

Jannine – who split with David, formerly of Spurn Walk, in the Burbank area of town, but now of Seaton Carew – a decade ago after spending eight years in a relationship with him, told the Hartlepool Mail: “To leave Lee all by himself in a foreign country is just appalling.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the incident and we have provided consulate assistance but we don’t comment on cases involving minors.”

Cleaner and carer Jannine met David, who works for an asbestos removal firm, when he was working in London and she was living as a single mum and caring for Lee.

The pair went on to have the 14-year-old but split up 10 years ago, with David seeing both boys during the summer.

The Mail contacted David at his hotel in Lanzarote who revealed he eventually made his way to the destination via Madrid with his family following the row at a cost of £1,500.

He said Thompson holiday reps had told him he was banned from the return flight and would have to make his own arrangements.

He added: “I understand this caused a great deal of upset, but we would not continue on the trip as was planned. I’m sorry that the plane was diverted and I can understand why that action was taken.”