TUI holidaymakers on a return flight to Edinburgh were taken off the aircraft in Gatwick and told the trip would be completed – by road.
A long delay in Lanzarote meant the crew could not reach Scotland without exceeding their legal flying hours.
So the aircraft diverted to the London airport where passengers were told they would finish the remaining 450 miles by coach, a journey likely to take 9-10 hours.
An estimated 200 passengers were on board the flight which left Arricife at 9pm local time, four hours late,on Thursday.
The flight landed in Gatwick at about 1am and passengers shivered in the cold for two-and-a-half hours as they waited for buses to a hotel.
But there was fury this morning when the weary travellers discovered TUI would be putting them aboard coaches this afternoon rather than completing the journey by air.
Eileen Bryant, 67, from Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, raged online: “Just experienced the worst service ever from Tui.
“Flight diverted to Gatwick because the crew ran out of legal flying time. Surely this would have been obvious before they actually left?
“Arrived in Gatwick shortly after 1am to be told we will be put up in a hotel and then bussed to Edinburgh at 12.30 today.
“By the time the total shambles of an organisation got the busses to transport us to the hotel it is now after 4am.
“The transfer to Edinburgh by bus will apparently take eight hours, then we have another three hours to travel. Will never fly Tui again”.
Her husband, Mike, 72, added: “Disgusting lack of organisation and support from TUI. Rather than fly us to Edinburgh in the morning they plan to deliver us to Edinburgh by coach. Seriously p***** off.”
Images were later uploaded to Twitter showing a large queue of elderly, children and adults standing outside in the cold with their luggage waiting for the bus to turn up.”
@StevenInglis uploaded a picture to Twitter captioned with: “Very poor show Tui dropping 200+ off at Gatwick instead of Edinburgh at 2am, Must have known prior to flight the crew’s hours wouldn’t allow the flight to reach Edinburgh.
“Safety is paramount [but] there is no excuse for bad planning and poor service. @TUIUK must have known due to a four hour delay on the outbound flight, the return would not reach Edinburgh.
“Lots of very, very angry folk here queuing in the cold at 2am for a bus, being kept in the dark is not good customer service @TUIUK take note”.
Passengers are understood to have started boarding buses just before midday on their way to Edinburgh Airport.
Eileen said today: “They have now offered 400 Euros each compensation but I would rather have got home at the right time.”
Eileen, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, said standing outside waiting for a bus at Gatwick was “horrendous”, as was the thought of the long journey home.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority all a travel company need to do is “make sure you get” to your location.
But an article on holiday rights by www.moneysavingexpert.com suggests long journeys by coach are rare. They state: “It is the last thing you need….when your flight is delayed or canceled. The airline has a duty to look after you, get you on a flight, and in some cases pay you a hefty chunk of compensation or a refund.”
The maximum a pilot can legally fly in seven consecutive days is 60 duty hours , while 14 days it is 110 and 28 days it is 190 hours but it has to be spread evenly as practicable possible.
Steven Inglis, 54 and his wife who he wished not to be named, criticised the airline for failing to be transparent with the customers.
He claims that TUI have spent over £80,000 in compensation as over 200 passengers were paid £400 each and given a 8 Euro food and drink voucher.
The couple from Alloa, Clackmannanshire, paid £1284 for the package holiday to Lanzarote.
Speaking today, Steven, said: “It was a catastrophe. They totally screwed up and shot themselves in the foot. My wife was raging as they lied to us and kept us in the dark.
“The plane screen showed the flight path was initially going to Edinburgh airport before it suddenly changed to London Gatwick. It was quickly turned off. Just before the end of the flight the captain told us we were landing at Gatwick as the crew had used all their legal flight time.
“After we got through customs and our luggage and went outside TUI reps gave us pre-printed letters telling us. We were staying in a hotel in Crawley then getting a coach to Edinburgh and should be in by 9pm. It was cold outside and we waited half an hour before deciding to get the first flight back.
“They told us they would reimburse us if we choose to get another flight, so I’m trying to claw back £360 from them. We slept on the floor in the terminal, it was about six hours, so we could get the flight. We got back to Edinburgh by 11.40 in the morning on a BA flight”.
Passengers also said the former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, was on the diverted plane.