April 19th, 2010
11:07 AM ET

Ash cloud frustrates travelers, separates families

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 “red blankets, greet cots, personal hygiene amenities, and some sandwiches to passengers.”

Wu says the airport is now encouraging passengers to leave and stay at local hotels until flights are available – he thinks they want to keep their costs down. But still, “getting 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,” he says.“People here are still in good spirits, but that yet has to be seen for how long, until flights are back to normal.”

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 – which is barely enough to cover the cost of their hotel room.

They’re concerned about the rising costs, but are making the best of it: “We are considering traveling by train south to Naples today,” Davies said. “The 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.”

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: “They 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,” 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’t 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."

For some, the frustration had settled in, but they tried to remain hopeful.

In most cases, there isn't much travelers can do. So they just opted to laugh it off.

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Filed under: Air travel • Iceland • World
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. InLondon

    Wow, it's only been a few days and I can't believe the sob stories coming out of this! I'm stuck in Europe too and I'm not running to the media crying about it. This is a stupid ash cloud not genocide, war or famine and Americans are stuck in EUROPE not the war torn 3rd world. It's not that bad, so stop crying!

    April 19, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rockie

    This is interesting – while many travellers laugh this inconvenience off, some seem to be genuinely panicking that they are 3 or 4 days behind schedule. Yes it adds to the expense and you may not be able to get into your hotel of choice, but let's face it – you could be stuck in a worse location.
    I'm sure the families living in bombed out piles of rubble in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in refugee camps in Somalia would line up to switch places with you. They are truly trapped and not for a few days. Put things in perspective folks.

    April 19, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Andrea

    yes, of course. always hard to be separated from familiy. my husband is stuck in Europe and of course we miss him. But I keep thinking of all the families of servicemen and women who must be separated from family for months at a time, and who are constantly worrying about their safety. They must deal with this as a way of life.

    April 19, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kayla

    Well, It may not be major to you, but my father left like a week ago for work and i haven't seen him or heard from him since. He doesn't have unlimited international calls. My dad works a lot and is always gone, I see him 2 times a week, which have now been taken from me. I'm just a kid in high school who misses her dad. I don't have him here for advice. My baby brother doesn't understand why he isn't here. I graduate this year and i needed him here for things. I miss him and your right it may not be as sever as some other things, but it's still upsetting to those of us to care and miss our loved one's.especialy since my dad is only there for your safety, not for himself.

    April 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vincent

    My cousin is stuck in Europe. What was a dream honeymoon is now becoming a nightmare. His wife is a small business owner who can not earn money while she is stuck in Europe and my cousin has used up all his vacation time to go on this extended honeymoon, so his employer isn't exactly happy with him being gone for so long. They are quickly using all their savings so they can stay in a transit hotel. They have called to ask for a loan so they can try and eurail down to Sicily and fly out of there, but they are competing with thousands of others thinking the same thing. For those who mock them for being "upset" at the thought of being "stuck" in europe....Think aobut what you're saying...how would you feel, and what would you do, if your job and livelihood was threatened by your dream vacation...Have a little compassion, people!

    April 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Timo

    Can chicken be used in place of saomln sometimes?That's pretty much all my email now (with slight edits).I just thought of something else, how about noodles? Can they be fit in as a meal?And to replace refried beans, will I just use kidney beans or something? Or can anyone suggest something better for it (Don't different beans have different properties?)?

    July 14, 2012 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |