sata

A SATA plane shown on the company’s YouTube page. The airline has been canceling its flights to and from the Azores, disrupting the travel plans of a number of area families.

Christine and Dennis Medeiros of Seekonk had been planning for a year to visit the Azores with their parents and see the land their families came from.

But what was supposed to be a dream vacation turned into a nightmare when they got to Logan International Airport in Boston and the airline SATA began canceling flights.

The problem reportedly stemmed from a plane having a mechanical problem, and there were no planes to take its place.

Christine Medeiros said she and Dennis were supposed to fly out Saturday at 10 a.m., but there was an announcement the flight was delayed. Then there was a second delay. Finally, at 1 p.m., the flight was canceled.

It took them three hours to get their luggage back, but the airline would not provide them with a hotel in case another flight became available.

They were also told no one knew if flights would be available, that airline employees had no further information.

“We were told, ‘We can’t help you, go home,’” she said.

They were also told that the only airline employee with access to a computer was the Fall River office manager, and he was unavailable.

“It was the most unprofessional, incompetent, antiquated system we had ever seen,” she said.

The couple took a $165 Uber ride back home to Seekonk with their dreams of visiting their parents’ homeland dashed and a year of planning wasted.

“I was beyond disappointed,” she said.

But the Medeiroses were far from the only ones from Southeastern Massachusetts caught up in the chaos from the cancelled flights.

July is a popular time for those of Portuguese decent to visit the Azores, a group of islands in the Atlantic about 850 miles from the Portuguese mainland.

Andrew Bryce, also of Seekonk, put his son, the boy’s cousin and their grandparents on a flight to the Azores two weeks ago for a family vacation.

They were supposed to return home Tuesday but have been stranded in the Azores because SATA, the major airline serving the islands, has been unable to handle a crush of Americans visitors.

Bryce said flights kept getting cancelled and now his son Jack, 11, is scheduled to come home late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

But, to get home, he has to take another airline to Lisbon and then fly to New York City and on to Boston.

A former sports writer at The Sun Chronicle, Bryce said his son is actually one of the lucky ones.

The grandparents own a home in the Azores so he has had a place to stay while waiting for a flight.

Many people have been left without as all the hotels are booked, he said.

July is a busy time as there are a lot of feasts that natives of the Azores and their families like to attend, he said.

Starting to move

Norton School Superintendent Joseph Baeta is also there, but he said in an email he thinks the problems were solved Thursday and air traffic was starting to move.

Manuel Silveira, owner of Silveira Travel Service in Taunton, said about half of dozen of his customers are stuck in the Azores and others have been unable to get out of Boston.

He said he was told the problem started when a plane broke down last week and flights had to be canceled.

The airline also had a new plane on order that it thought would be available by now, so it booked more flights than usual, he said.

The new plane, however, is grounded in Lisbon because it hasn’t been certified yet, Silveira said.

He said he is frustrated because their is nothing he can do for his customers, and SATA has not been answering its phones.

Bryce said he, too, was never able to get through to the airline.

A call from The Sun Chronicle to SATA was put on hold and never picked up Thursday.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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