Nicola Purdy and her children Jack, 24, Alex, 12 and Darcie, 11, had enjoyed a week-long break on the Greek Island and were due to all fly back together last Wednesday.
But when they arrived at Heraklion Airport for their return flight to Cardiff Nicola’s eldest son Jack, who has autism, was taken ill and was taken away in a wheelchair for treatment.
Nicola, 48, says that she was assured her son would be given special assistance to board the plane back home.
After boarding the plane, Nicola noticed that Jack’s assigned seat was empty – but assumed he had been given priority seating further forward.
After the four-hour flight, Nicola and her other children expected to reunite with Jack at baggage claim.
It was only after a three and a half hour search that Nicola realised Jack had never been on the plane at all, and was still back in Crete – stranded without his passport, mobile phone or money.
“I have had some trolls saying, ‘Why did you not look that your son was on board?’”
Describing the nightmare ordeal, Mrs Purdy said: “On the way back Jack became ill.
“He is mildly autistic and had a stomach migraine where he was vomiting violently. He started feeling ill and to be fair to the hotel staff they let him lie down and keep cool. We arrived at the airport and I had booked a VIP lounge so we were able to go there.
“My son was still ill and the staff decided to call a doctor, despite me telling them that when he gets like this, nothing can be done for him.
“But the doctor came and took him, and his boarding pass and said they would put him on the flight in priority seating.
“I noticed he was not in his allocated seat, but we were right at the back. I thought he was sat further down the front, there was no reason he would not be on that flight.
“I was perfectly oblivious and we arrived at Cardiff and went to get the luggage.
“We waited a while, and there was nobody left in arrivals or departures and I thought, where is my son?
“I found the night duty manager at the airport and in the end I had to contact the police and the British Consulate. Eventually we found out he was still in Heraklion Aiport. I could not believe it.
“What must have been going through his mind? He must have been thinking we had all abandoned him. He had no means of communication with anyone and was in another country. It was awful.
“It would have been awful for this to happen to someone more vulnerable or younger than Jack. I thought he was safe and was on the flight. It had never happened to me before.
“Why would I not assume he was on the flight?
“I posted what happened online and I have had some trolls saying, ‘Why did you not look that your son was on board?’ but why would I after what I was told?”
Eventually, with the help of the British Consulate and holiday operator TUI Jack was brought home to Swansea .
Nicola says he was still very distressed when he arrived: “He was tearful. When he got home he was still not well at all.
“It’s awful what has happened to my son. I felt completely out of control of the situation. It was such an awful experience.
“I believe TUI should compensate us and ensure it does not happen to anybody else.
“I am livid, this caused so much distress to all of us, especially my youngest children, who were inconsolable.”
A TUI UK spokesman said: “We are sorry to hear that Mrs Purdy’s son was taken ill in the airport lounge before his flight.
“Once we were made aware that he had returned from hospital and was still at the airport we fully supported them by arranging both a flight back to the UK and onward travel home, covering the entire cost.
“We were in direct contact with Mrs Purdy to keep her updated with the situation and have tried to make further contact following their return to the UK.”