An elderly survivor of the infamous Srebrenica massacre has been among those caught up in Flybe’s collapse.
Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica, had been visiting Belfast in Northern Ireland, along with a charity colleague Elmina Kulasic, both from Bosnia.
Mrs Subasic lost her husband and her youngest son in the Srebrenica massacre in which at least 8,000 people, mainly men and boys, were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, during the country’s devastating civil war.
The peace campaigner had been invited to Belfast this week as part of a delegation from UK charity Remembering Srebrenica.
She had attended several engagements, including giving talks to pupils and meeting Northern Ireland politicians from all parties with a message of peace and reconciliation.
The charity’s director Amil Khan, from Birmingham, said the three had all travelled on a Flybe flight from the Midlands city to Belfast on Monday for a week of events.
But he told how his “heart sank” when he got back from dinner on Wednesday evening to messages from concerned friends and colleagues, asking if the delegation was booked on Flybe.
They had been due to catch a flight back with the stricken regional carrier, when it went into administration overnight.
Mr Khan said the collapse meant additional complications for getting 72-year-old Mrs Subasic, who is on medication, safely back home.
Her visa requirements, which mean her onward travel has to be from the UK, meant the group was unable to arrange an alternative flight from Dublin.
Matters were further complicated by the fact there is no direct flight from the UK to Bosnia, so Mrs Subasic, who is from Sarajevo, and Mrs Kulasic, would have to fly home via Vienna, in Austria, anyway.
Mr Khan said: “Last night, I saw what was unfolding. My heart sank.
“The Flybe return flight from Belfast City Airport to Birmingham was on Thursday night and we thought then she could arrive there, relax, and get the onward flight to Vienna.
“But then I saw what had happened, so I started looking for alternatives.
“There was nothing available from Belfast International, it was all sold out, until Tuesday next week – all sold out.
“I looked at flights to Manchester, to Luton, and that was sold out, so I really started getting concerned.
“I’m sorted really because I am only going back to Birmingham, so it isn’t as much of a problem for me.
“But it’s concerning, because Mrs Subasic is a survivor, her welfare is my concern and it isn’t ideal to have this mad dash and then losing sleep, and with all the luggage.”
He said he had been considering catching the ferry, but that they got lucky, when he managed to book the last three seats on an EasyJet flight to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport leaving at 9.20pm on Thursday.
Flying to Liverpool would mean staying overnight in a hotel before making the train journey to Birmingham, where Mrs Subasic could catch her connection on to Vienna, he added.
He said: “You just always assume the option to fly home, if something does go wrong, will be there. That’s when it hit home.
“It’s like anything, you read about it and if you’re not affected by it you might think ‘it’s bad’ but then you move on with your life.
“With this, it’s the anxiety and uncertainty it generates, it’s something out of your control and you also feel a level of helplessness.”