x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai hotel rescues stranded couple's wedding reception

A couple married in Australia found themselves staging their UK wedding reception via a videolink from Dubai.

Sean and Natalie Murtagh were able to 'attend' their wedding reception held by relatives in London thanks to a videolink supplied by a Dubai hotel.
Sean and Natalie Murtagh were able to 'attend' their wedding reception held by relatives in London thanks to a videolink supplied by a Dubai hotel.

Wedding celebrations seem to have been one of the biggest casualties in the travel crisis which has seen hundreds of thousands of passengers unable to reach their destinations. One newly married couple, trapped in Dubai because of the volcanic ash cloud covering much of Europe, thought they would miss out on their own wedding reception and the renewal of their vows in the UK. But they were able to join the party - virtually - thanks to a live videolink set up by their Dubai hotel.

Sean Murtagh, 24, and his Australian bride, Natalie, 30, were married in Brisbane, Australia, three weeks ago. Sean's family in the UK and Ireland could not make it to the wedding in Australia, so his mother arranged a second reception in London. The couple landed in Dubai on Thursday morning only to be told there would be no connecting flight to London. "I was gutted," Natalie said. "I broke down into tears. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to meet all my in-laws and I was really looking forward to this.

"My mother went ahead and she is there, too, as is my maid of honour. I've also got some Australian friends who live in London but couldn't make it home for the wedding." Their luck turned when Sean asked reception staff at the Millennium Airport Hotel if he could get an internet video link-up in their room. "Once the management heard about it, they pulled out all the stops," Sean said. "They brought in their IT guys and the other people who have been stranded here have been helping us out. I have borrowed a pair of trousers and a shirt and everybody is coming up to us and congratulating us."

Last night, 80 guests in London celebrated with the newlyweds and about 60 of their new friends via the live videolink. The hotel provided a cake and flowers. Alex Conroy is another traveller delayed in the UAE. The cancellation of her flight back to Manchester in England means that she will miss one of the most important days in her best friend's life. "I should be back in Bolton right now for my friend's wedding. I'm heartbroken," said the 26-year-old IT recruitment consultant from Wigan.

Together with her husband, Gareth, 32, a surveyor, their two-week trip to Brisbane, Australia, has come with an unexpected cost. "We should have been back in plenty of time to get ready for the wedding. I am so upset. It is awful. I have been looking forward to this for ages. "One of the bridesmaids lives in Ireland so I don't know if she is going to be able to make it, too. It is just a shame as I wanted to be there so much."

Ian Thomas, 32, from Australia, is due to be the best man at the nuptials of one of his lifelong friends next week, but now his attendance has been thrown into doubt. "The wedding is taking place in Poland," he said. "My friend is trying to sort out a bus for about 20 people to take them over from Brighton to the Netherlands so they can then drive to Poznan, in Poland, where the wedding is being held.

"We have been looking at all kinds of ideas about how to try and get there," said Mr Thomas, who has just set out on a six-week holiday with his fiancée, Rachel Wallis. "Right now, I would be happy just to get anywhere in southern Europe, where we can get on a train," added Ms Wallis. Peter Rosswag, 47, from Wiesbaden, in Germany, said he travels regularly in the Gulf region and had arrived from Jeddah late on Friday.

He hoped to fly to Frankfurt early this morning; he said he heard that the airport there would open at about 2am. "You have to be relaxed about these things. If you are a business traveller you don't get as hot-tempered as the tourist travellers." However, many tourists appeared happy to relax and enjoy an extra few days of unexpected holiday, with the lodging being paid for by the airlines Etihad and Emirates.

Akhlaq Undre, 58, a businessman from Manchester, England, was returning from a two-month holiday in India when his connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to the UK was cancelled. "I am quite happy to be here," he said. "It feels like a free holiday and I am in no hurry to get back home and get back to work, thank you very much. I have been very pleased with the way Etihad has treated us. We have free accommodation and free meals."

eharnan@thenational.ae chamilton@thenational.ae