Blessing Frederick was being treated by her teenage son Asher to a birthday getaway.
But the pair say they were among around 20 people who missed the flight to Thessalonika on Tuesday because of a lack of staff, causing long delays at check-in and with bag checks.
By the time they got to the plane, Blessing said it had already closed for boarding, and a crowd was left standing at the gate.
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"It was horrendous,” the London hairdresser said. “I’ve not been to Luton airport before and I don’t want to go again.”
Asher had spent £445 on the five day trip with his mum, the first time the family would have been away since the start of the pandemic two years ago.
Her husband dropped them off at the airport at around 5.15am for the 6.55am Wizz Air flight, which is when their problems started.
Blessing said there was a long delay at the check in desk, which hadn’t opened when they arrived. But it was at the bag check area where their problems really started.
"The queue at baggage handling was crazy,” she said. “There were not enough staff in the building.”
At one point she said an extra lane was opened for those with children. As she had used a similar one with her 17 year old at the check in she thought she was eligible, only to be sent right back to the end of the queue after being told it was only for small children.
She said there were not enough staff on to check everyone’s bags. “You could see the panic starting to build,” she said. “It was horrible.”
She said when they finally got through they couldn’t find a gate number for their plane and by the time it did, the gate had closed and staff refused to let them on. “Staff were saying they didn’t get paid enough to put up with the hassle,” she said. “Their attitude was disgusting.”
Attempts to rebook flights were unsuccessful with the next available plane only leaving on Thursday. And she said attempts to deal with both Luton Airport and Wizz Air have so far been unsuccessful.
"They are not admitting they were short staffed but a lot of people missed their flights,” she said.
"It’s not just about the money, it was so disheartening.”
Several airline companies, including easyJet and British Airways, have cancelled hundreds of flights in recent days after seeing crew and staff hit by covid outbreaks.
And Wizz Air is facing further disruption at Luton after their check in staff and baggage handlers, employed by GH London Ground Handling Service, voted for strike action next week after failing to reach an agreement with the company over pay and conditions.
Union Unite has warned that around 100 of its members will strike between April 14 and 19, over GH London’s failure to introduce promised improvements to sick pay for all employees.
The workers are also striking over the regular failure to pay wages on time.
A spokesman for Luton Airport said: “The check-in process is managed by the airlines – in this case, Wizz Air, but as an airport we look after security.
“We’re not seeing the issues that some airports have experienced over the past few weeks although the Easter holidays are the busiest period since before the pandemic began and we are advising passengers to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for all document and security checks.”
Wizz Air has been approached for comment.
Have you been hit by issues at Luton Airport? Contact us at [email protected]