Some holidaymakers claimed they were trapped in a stairwell for 80 minutes before boarding after two Thomas Cook flights, from Manchester to Alicante and back, were affected.
The first flight was due to leave at 5.55am on Sunday, but did not depart until just before 8.30pm that night.
A technical problem caused the delay and forced passengers to switch planes.
But the knock-on effect meant hundreds more were left stranded in the popular Spanish resort for even longer as they waited for a flight home.
Among those stuck were Manchester City Women’s trio Bardsley, Houghton and Christiansen, along with their England team-mates Siobhan Chamberlain and Alex Greenwood.
Their flight should have landed back in Manchester at around 12.30pm on Sunday but eventually touched down at 3.30am on Monday morning — a delay of 15 hours.
Bardsley, 32, tweeted: “Delayed in Alicante for 5 hours… Any suggestions @ThomasCookUK @ThomasCookCares.”
Chamberlain, 33, also vented her frustration on Twitter, posting: “Left stranded in Alicante by @TCAirlinesUK with no information about flight! Could be 6-7 hours. Good job we’ve got each other.”
She later posted an update saying she had managed to book new flights. The Liverpool Ladies goalkeeper added: “I’m now getting myself home as soon as possible thanks to @Ryanair! Thanks for your non existent help @TCAirlinesUK!”
Thomas Cook claimed passengers in Spain were asked to wait for the flight in a stairwell — with the door to the airfield locked until boarding could begin.
Ben Kay Coles, 27, from Stockport, who had flown out to visit a friend for the weekend, said passengers were eventually taken to a hotel at around 5pm and were back at the airport roughly four hours later.
He told the Manchester Evening News : “I had to visit the information desk numerous times to find out what was going on.
“Eventually I discovered we were being shuttled to a hotel where there were two very lovely Thomas Cook representatives, but who also had no idea what was going on.
“We got back to the airport at 9.30pm, we then waited by the gate with no staff around at all as three hours went by, then two staff members turned up and let us through the gate towards the plane.
“The doors were then locked behind us, and the doors at the base of the stairwell were locked too. We were left there for around 80 minutes.
“I suppose a four-hour delay may have been understandable, but after more than 10 hours with no end in sight and no explanation we were all getting desperate.”
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “Our flights from Manchester to Alicante and Alicante to Manchester were delayed due to a technical fault on the outbound aircraft.
“Our customers’ safety is always our top priority and we are very sorry for the delay and inconvenience caused.
“Passengers were asked to form a queue in the stairwell while the aircraft was prepared for boarding.
“For the safety of everyone, the door out to the airfield was locked so that passengers couldn’t go outside before boarding could begin.”