Catalogue of disasters for Woodbridge family in nightmare holiday trip home from French Alps snow chaos

Lisa Cherryman and Steve James from Woodbridge who were caught up in Christmas snow and travel chaos

Lisa Cherryman and Steve James from Woodbridge who were caught up in Christmas snow and travel chaos while returning home from the Alps. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk family has spoken of a nightmare trip home from a dream Christmas holiday after suffering a double-whammy of getting caught in two travel troublespots.

Lisa Cherryman, of Woodbridge, with her children Lottie and James on a chair lift as the weather clo

Lisa Cherryman, of Woodbridge, with her children Lottie and James on a chair lift as the weather closed in at the French Alps resort where they were staying after all the lifts were closed due to high winds and risk of avalanche. - Credit: Archant

Lisa Cherryman and her partner Steve Andrews, and her three children, Lottie, 18, James, 16, and Jonty, 13, took two days to get home after first getting caught up in the chaos caused by freak heavy snowfalls in the Alps, and then their plane being diverted because of the Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet scare at Gatwick.

With very little snow having fallen in the French Alps so far, the deluge over Christmas brought the threat of serious avalanches and caused mayhem on the area’s roads, with a series of crashes blocking tunnels and major routes to the airports as people tried to get away and home after their skiing holidays.

It meant hours stuck waiting in airports, stranded with hundreds of other passengers, before the family was switched from Chambery airport to Lyon, which meant heading for Gatwick instead of Stansted, where their car was waiting.

While en route for Gatwick, problems struck a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747, which suffered a major landing-gear fault which forced it to return to the West Sussex airport, which in turn meant the family’s flight was diverted to Luton.

Ms Cherryman, who owns the antique and country furniture shop 10 Church Street in Woodbridge, said it had been a nightmare.

She said: “It was very chaotic – a catalogue of disasters.

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“The biggest problem was that it was very difficult to find out what was happening. The staff at the holiday company were doing their best but they couldn’t get the information we needed from their offices.

“The authorities had known the snow was on its way and we were told we would be picked up and transferred down the mountain much earlier, but the massive amount of snow which fell just caused so much chaos, especially down in the valley where they usually don’t get it.

“There were crashes and roads were at a standstill. Some people took 14 hours to do a road journey which normally took just half an hour.”

Ms Cherryman and Mr Andrews, a dog trainer who runs his own company Jonah and Zasko Canine Training and Behavioural Solutions and heads the training department at Suffolk Canine Creche at Martlesham, and the children, all students at Woodbridge School, had been staying at Val Claret, Tigne, holidaying with Inghams, part of Hotelplan UK, which runs Inghams, Ski Total and Esprit Ski .

Inghams said it had had a full team in the UK and abroad working around the clock to repatriate its customers affected by the extreme conditions in the French Alps.

The company’s “absolute number one priority” was to get its customers home safely as quickly as possible and Hotelplan UK had arranged three additional aircraft to help solve the problems and ensure people could get back to the UK.