Pupils caught up in flights chaos for second time in a year

M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

One lane closed on M27 after crash

Being stranded once in a foreign country during a year could be considered unlucky.

But a team of Portsmouth Grammar School youngsters and teachers almost managed it twice.

The group, who had been on a skiing trip to America, was due to fly back into Heathrow just as heavy snow threw airport arrivals into chaos.

They were lucky to be among a handful of passengers on flights which made it home - avoiding the possibility of them spending Christmas stranded in the States.

Katie Paxman, Hattie Gould and Annie Materna, all 14, and PE teachers Helen Linnett and Anna Howarth, were among the group.

They were all also caught up in the volcanic ash crisis in April, which saw them marooned in Lanzarote as flights were grounded.

Miss Linnett, PE teacher and assistant head of the sixth form, was among five staff members who escorted 22 boys and 10 girls between 13 and 17 years for a fun week-long skiing trip to Killington in Vermont.

She said: 'On Monday, when we were due to leave, we were told there would be delays, and that if we missed our flight we wouldn't get back home before December 28.

'In Lanzarote the delay was eating into school days, but out in America it was eating into our school holidays, so there was a certain degree of anxiety.'

The PGS group flew into Heathrow at 10am yesterday.

Miss Linnett added: 'Lots of people didn't make it out for Christmas holidays so we do appreciate just how lucky we were to get back.

'It was a surreal experience, as we had seen pictures on the internet but didn't realise the scale of the weather problem until we flew home.

'At Heathrow we saw piles of baggage belonging to people who had checked in and left the airport.

'Anna (Howarth) and I were joking that students won't want to come on school trips with us in the future because we're jinxed!'

Katie said the experience had not put her off school trips. She said: 'It was really fun, especially as we were watching the coverage on the internet and felt part of the drama.

'But when we realised we were going to come home for Christmas we were all over the moon.'

Mum Diane was delighted to have her daughter back in time for the festive season.

'It's wonderful that despite these extreme climates students have the opportunity to go on amazing trips, and stay safe,' she said.