Under the Volcano: Impact Of The Air Shutdown in London

fruit marks spencer london photo

Fruit cooler at Marks & Spencer, 6 PM GMT Credit Bonnie Alter

The planes are due to start flying on Tuesday, which is welcome news to the 150,000 Brit's who are stranded around the world. Of course, there is no telling how long it will take to get everyone back here even then.

Travellers' stories abound. One friend's son is stuck in Vienna, another in Tel Aviv. Another has the house guest from hell: he came for 3 days from the USA and it has turned into 7 with no end in sight. Twelve guests at a wedding (out of 100) didn't arrive, neither did the pianist who was supposed to play as they walked down the aisle. A trip to Turin was cancelled with no money back for hotels and rental car. Ditto for a trip to Naples and Pompeii. One lucky guy flew NetJets (private corporate rental jets) because they have more flexibility in airport choice. Apparently they have been going 24 hours a day within Europe, getting rich City bankers back to work.

The stories in the newspaper about stranded travellers are sad, hysterical and funny. One columnist explained "a holiday is an elective thing: you have to want to be on it or it ceases to be. No longer guests, we are captives." People are stuck with small children, since this is the tail end of the Easter holiday break, paying outrageous amounts to stay in their hotels.

Rental car companies have been hiking their prices exorbitantly, as have air lines within Europe. Others are taking endless train rides to get back: Stranded in Vienna, it was 10 hours to Frankfurt, 5 hours to Paris, 2 hours to Calais and then wait for a ferry. Another family is taking a two day ferry ride from Athens to Venice, on the deck of the boat with two small children.

Some travellers stuck in Moscow without Russian visas, have not been allowed to leave their hotel rooms and have to be escorted to the hotel restaurant by the people who are guarding them 24 hours a day. One couple from Dubai, due to be married in the UK, made their vows on Skype.

calais flotilla photo

Image from the Guardian: Calais Flotilla

Thousands have descended on car ferries to cross the English channel. Some have been transported across by private motor boats charging £65 ($US 100US) a head. The ferries carried 11,000 passengers on Friday and Saturday alone. Eurostar is up 30% on its numbers and is limited only by the number of trains it has.

The London Marathon is next weekend and organisers are concerned that some of the high profile athletes may not make it, since they are coming from Africa and the US. Ditto for footballers getting to Hamburg for a big game. The funeral of the late President of Poland was poorly attended by world leaders. It is estimated that 10% of the teachers are stranded (everyone loves to get away for a holiday here) and countless students.

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