What began as a minor inconvenience for travelers stranded by an ash cloud has been multiplied into serious frustration as they try to find ways to combat some serious problems caused by their delays.
By the end of the day on Sunday, a total of 63,000 flights had been canceled in the four days since ash from a volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland closed the airspace of a large swath of Europe, according to air traffic authority Eurocontrol.
Paulo Wu is on his fifth day of sleeping in the Amsterdam airport and surviving on airplane food. He says an entire gate is being used to house stranded passengers, and the Red Cross is there passing out ‚Äúred blankets, greet cots, personal hygiene amenities, and some sandwiches to passengers.‚ÄĚ
Wu says the airport is now encouraging passengers to leave and stay at local hotels until flights are available ‚Äď he thinks they want to keep their costs down. But still, ‚Äúgetting a bath or a room at the transit hotel seems very difficult to get a reservation for a room, only if you are lucky enough on the waiting list,‚ÄĚ he says.‚ÄúPeople here are still in good spirits, but that yet has to be seen for how long, until flights are back to normal.‚ÄĚ
Journalist Christopher Davies and his wife are stuck in Rome. They have travel insurance, but Davies says that will only pay for five additional days, and only $300 per day ‚Äď which is barely enough to cover the cost of their hotel room.
They‚Äôre concerned about the rising costs, but are making the best of it: ‚ÄúWe are considering traveling by train south to Naples today,‚ÄĚ Davies said. ‚ÄúThe hotels are a lot less expensive and since we have never visited Naples before, it may help us get our minds off of this situation.‚ÄĚ
Davies has tried contacting Lufthansa over and over, but keeps getting directed to the same short message on their website saying that delays are inevitable. He also tried contacting the US embassy: ‚ÄúThey said that they know of 150 Americans stranded in Rome like us, plus another 1,000 across Italy. I think that number must be very low. But they have no solution,‚ÄĚ he says. Davies met some Brits that are taking a train home today at the high price of almost ¬£500, but being American, he doesn‚Äôt have that option.
For many travelers money has been a big part of the struggle - they've had to spend thousands of dollars trying to get home. One couple, who had driven through several countries only to be stuck in Calais, France, said between rental cars and hotels, they surely had tacked on a large amount to the cost of their trip.
For some people, money wasn't the only issue.
Steve Patterson and his wife Jen are stuck overseas and separated from their kids in Virginia. The separation has been tough for them. They've tried to talk to their kids using Skype as much as they can, they told CNN.
"I'm just dying to see you guys," Jen Patterson told her kids over Skype. "This is the hardest thing mommy's ever done. You guys are the bravest kids."
In most cases, there isn't much travelers can do. So they just opted¬†to laugh it off.