The Associated Press (AP) reports that while most travelers stranded by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland will be home today or early this week, many remain stranded abroad, more than two weeks after the volcano effectively shut down European airspace. Most airports in Europe are now open.
The AP writes that “Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Britain’s ABTA, which represents British travel agents and tour operators, said about 100,000 stranded British travellers should have been returned home by Monday morning. About 35,000 more will remain marooned until Friday.” Thousands of travelers are stuck in destinations such as Egypt and Thailand.
In the meantime, airlines are asking ticketed passengers to give up their seats for people affected by the volcano. The AP also reports that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have both asked passengers to give up their tickets on long-haul flights. “It’s a very difficult situation, and we’ve had to deal with a lot of complexity, aircraft stuck in different parts of the world, crew stuck in different parts of the world,” British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh told the AP.
Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson openly criticized the decision to close airspace entirely. “A blanket ban of the whole of Europe was not the right decision. Planes have to put up with sandstorms in Africa, the engines are designed to put up with a lot more than existed.”
Adding to the situation is the fact that Eyjafjallajokull hasn’t actually stopped erupting. The intensity of the eruptions has lessened, and the plume of ash is not tall enough to reach the jet stream. Still, there is concern that the volcano could continue to pose a problem, or trigger additional eruptions from nearby volcanoes.