- Title: SPAIN: Airlines struggle with passenger backlog as some European flights resume
- Date: 21st April 2010
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WAITING INSIDE MADRID COACH STATION
- Embargoed: 6th May 2010 13:00
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Travel / Tourism
- Reuters ID: LVAG37T0XCP4Q44QK836FIMFEIT
- Story Text: Airlines struggled on Tuesday (April 20) with a five-day backlog of passengers as flights from large parts of Europe were set to resume under a deal to free up airspace closed by a huge ash cloud, but strengthened eruptions from an Icelandic volcano threatened to unravel the plans.
Frustrated and exhausted passengers filled Madrid's Barajas airport waiting for information about their flights which they said was often confused and contradictory from airline personnel.
Austrian traveller Christoph who had been in Madrid since Thursday said he had been re-routed from his original destination of Munich to Milan only to be later told that flight was also cancelled.
"We have got much indication. But always different information. This side they say it is OK. We shall go to the next customer office. Then we go to the next one. They say another. We always get difficult different information. At the end is always the same. We have to wait and no one can say us when we go back," he said.
Other passengers were resigned and taking in it in their stride.
Scottish traveller Des had also been stranded since Thursday but said the airline had been very efficient in dealing with the crisis.
"Iberia have been ok yeah. On Friday they organised the hotel. Nice hotel, nice staff, very efficient. So we were there for four nights; Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. We left there at five o'clock this morning. They sorted out the tickets to go back on Thursday and I now need to get my ticket stamped so that the hotel will take us for another two nights," Des said.
Toby, from Munich, was still waiting to hear how he would get home.
"We have been at the airport since yesterday. We came from Valencia and wanted to fly on to Munich. But the flight was cancelled. We have been waiting since then and wanted to travel by bus but the bus did not come, or rather, we were unable to get on the bus and now we are waiting for the first opportunity to get back to Munich," he said.
Details remained sketchy of how the authorities would split European airspace into areas where aircraft could fly or not and other countries were adopting a more cautious approach.
Britain's biggest airports remained closed, and even where flights resumed, at the Edinburgh and Glasgow airports in Scotland, the service was limited.
British air traffic controllers also warned a new ash cloud was headed for major air routes, prompting British Airways to cancel its short-haul flights, while several countries either closed airports anew or curtailed use of their airspace.
Poland, which had reopened four airports on Monday, closed them again on Tuesday, as well as shutting the northern part of its airspace to transit flights, citing the ash cloud.
Hungary closed part of its western airspace below 6,000 m (20,000) ft due to higher amounts of volcanic ash, its air traffic authority said, and Ireland said the renewed eruption of the Icelandic volcano on Monday, and prevailing weather conditions, forced it to extend its airspace closure.
EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said on Monday, after a ministerial video conference, that more flights would leave on Monday, easing days of disruption for millions of passengers. A handful of flights left Amsterdam and Frankfurt late on Monday.
The deal offered hope to frustrated airlines losing 250 million U.S. dollars (USD) a day from the shutdown and seeing their shares tumble. The global freight supply chain is also beginning to sag.
Germany will mostly maintain its no-fly zone until 1200 GMT.
Under the deal, which Kallas said would take effect from 0600 GMT, the area immediately around the volcano will remain closed.
But flights may be permitted in a wider zone with a lower concentration of ash, subject to local assessments and scientific advice, the European aviation control agency Eurocontrol said.
Airlines had declared numerous test flights problem-free over the past days, but experts disagree over how to measure the ash and who should decide it is safe to fly. A British Airways jet lost power in all four engines after flying through an ash cloud above the Indian Ocean in 1982.
France said it was reopening some airports to create air corridors to Paris. Italian airspace will open from 0600 GMT.
Eurocontrol said it expected up to 9,000 flights to have operated in Europe on Monday, a third of normal volume.
Industry losses worldwide for passenger airlines and cargo companies could reach as much as 3 billion USD from the cloud, Helane Becker, an analyst with Jesup & Lamont Securities, told Reuters Insider on Monday. For U.S. airlines, she estimated the impact at 400 million USD to 600 million USD.
Many thousands of people have had travel disrupted or been stranded and forced to make long, expensive attempts to reach home by road, rail and sea, as well as missing days at work and school at the end of the busy Easter holiday season.
With the possibility of the cloud still spreading and only sketchy details of how the authorities would split European airspace passengers in Madrid sought alternative ways to reach their destination.
Canadian journalist Elizabeth Mevor, living and working in London, had been on holiday in Tenerife and made several attempts to return to London.
After flights and buses were unsuccessful, Mevir opted for organising a private coach with other affected tourist to get to Calais.
"We have come here to the bus station. There are no trains through France because there is a rail strike or something. So we have come to the bus station .There are no buses until early next week so now we are trying organise our own coach," said Elizabeth Mevor adding that taxis were charging 400 euros per person to get to Paris and would only go with a full car.
German, Dieter Strober, 61, travelling back from the Canary Islands with his family, told Reuters Television of the long and difficult journey his family had so far.
"Then we flew from Tenerife to Malaga. From there we took the train to Madrid and we have been waiting here, and I have to say the rail information office didn't know very much. They sent us to other departments and there we were told that one can get on a direct train to Paris but that all seats on that train are booked up until May 5. So there was no possibility there. So at 0600 this morning we were here and we managed to get a booking to travel to Lyon on Thursday and then we will have thankfully done a major part of our journey," he said.
Belgian woman Tine Depoorten had also been trying to make her way home since Sunday after holidaying with her boyfriend in Spain.
"We went to Sevilla with Ryanair and we should have come back on Sunday but that didn't happen. I hope we will have our tickets refunded but we are not sure."
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