AIRLINE staff banned a passenger from boarding one of the last flights back to the UK after the emergency operation that ruined her dream birthday trip.
Grace Schofield, 23, is now stranded in the United States, thousands of miles from her distressed family and recuperating from the appendectomy she was forced to have in New York.
Doctors had cleared her to fly back on April 13.
Virgin Atlantic staff in the UK had also said she would be allowed on board – provided she had the relevant medical documents proving her fitness to fly.
But when she arrived for check-in, Grace was told she could not leave the US because of her health problems.
Flights in and out of the UK were then grounded on Thursday.
Grace’s mum, Gillian, of Templar Drive in Almondbury, said: “The surgeon cleared her to fly. We rang Virgin and they said they would give her special assistance.
“I didn’t fly out, because we would have just crossed paths, so her dad, Michael, and I went down to Heathrow to meet them on the Wednesday morning.
“The girls were hysterical when they got to the check-in desk and were told she couldn’t fly.
“We have gone through absolute hell. She’s desperate to get home.”
Grace, who was due to start a new job as a nursery nurse in Halifax this week, had gone to New York with three friends on April 5 to celebrate her 23rd birthday five days later.
But twenty-four hours into the trip she started to have excruciating abdominal pain and was rushed to the city’s St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.
She went under the knife to have her appendix removed the day before her birthday and had to go back to hospital for further treatment on April 11.
Two of her friends got on the flight two days later, unaware of what was to come.
Another, Kirsten Broad, stayed in New York with Grace.
Mr and Mrs Gledhill have since spent £3,000 on hotel bills.
Mrs Gledhill added: “We’re absolutely devastated. We should have been told from the word go she wouldn’t have been able to fly, then I would have gone out there to be with her and Kirsten could have come home.
“She can’t walk very far and is absolutely exhausted. I feel traumatised by the whole thing.
“We were misinformed.”
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said the company had acted correctly.
She said: “We are very sorry to hear of Grace’s situation.
“The health and safety of our passengers is Virgin Atlantic’s top priority.
“As the passenger had complications to her surgery, our airport staff followed the correct procedures in line with looking after the passenger’s welfare and she was referred to our medical advisors.
“As she had not been free of complications for four days she was denied travel and was re-booked for the appropriate day to ensure her own medical safety.
“These procedures are in place to ensure the medical safety of our passengers.
“Virgin Atlantic is working very hard around the clock to minimise the impact of this extraordinary situation.”
She said Grace would be on one of the first planes out of New York when flights resumed and the company would cover her living costs until then.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience in this extraordinary situation,” she added.
Schools were hit by teacher and pupil absences caused by the travel disruption yesterday.
At Salendine Nook High School, 14 staff and 70 pupils were off, including 25 who were on a science field trip in Florida.
Eleven teachers and 50 pupils from Holmfirth High School were stranded abroad.
Honley High School had 12 teachers and three teaching assistants missing. Twenty-nine pupils, a teacher and a teaching assistant missed the day at King James School in Almondbury.
Other Huddersfield people continue to be affected.
Huddersfield University student Nicci Taylor, 18, is in Florida with her parents, Chris and Helen, who live in Oakes.
They had been due to return home on Friday after going to Disney World.
The marketing and PR student said she is missing her last week of the university term, and needed to get back in time for her first exam on May 13.
“At first we were thinking, brilliant, we get an extra week in Florida,” she said.
“But my dad’s a self-employed electrician and he’s losing a lot of work.
“It’s costing a lot more to stay here and we’re all getting a bit desperate to be home.”
An amateur actor is stuck in Hong Kong, as his central role in a performance scheduled for the Lawrence Batley Theatre looms.
Patrick Hibbin is due to appear as Alan Bennett in Huddersfield Thespians’ production of The Lady in the Van, starting on May 4.
He said: “We got to the airport last Thursday and checked our bags in. They said it would be delayed an hour or two. Then they said it was cancelled.
“It has been a bit frustrating trying to rearrange everything.”
At the moment Mr Hibbin plans to be back on May 5.
Fifty-five members of Japan’s Osaka Symphonic Choir are marooned in Britain after performing at Huddersfield Town Hall on Friday.
Sarah Wickham, of Huddersfield Choral Society, said: “They are doing their best to entertain themselves. They’re taking advantage of being stuck here.
“They’re obviously a bit anxious, but we’re keeping in touch with them and doing our best to help them.”