What a Pain in the Ash!

It has been a month since Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland causing major shutdowns across European airports for mid-April. The volcano continues to erupt and airport shutdowns and flight delays are still occurring. Flights into the UK are being routed on a southerly direction to avoid the ash and this is adding to already long international flights. This week’s continued ash issue (say that three times fast!) has closed down airports in Spain as well.

The impact of the volcanic ash on a plane can be devastating. Smoke and ash from eruptions reduce visibility for visual navigation, and microscopic debris in the ash can sandblast windscreens and melt in the heat of aircraft engines, damaging them and making them shut down. Feel better about being delayed vs. subject to engine shutdowns? I do!

Thousands upon thousands of travelers in Europe and around the globe have been and continue to be affected by this volcanic ash. Not only are there current flight delays, but many people considering their summer holiday plans are taking Europe off their list for this year. This doesn’t help the slowly-rebounding travel sector.

What does all of this mean to you?

  • If you are traveling on any international flight that flies to or over Europe, check the airlines’ websites often for the latest news.

According to Delta: Periodic air traffic control restrictions continue to be possible due to the volcanic ash from the Mount Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland. Customers traveling in these markets are encouraged to check Delta’s website for updated flight arrival and departure times before leaving for the airport. This volcanic eruption is an ongoing situation that Delta will continue to monitor closely. In the event your flight is delayed or canceled, Delta will continue to offer alternate routings to assist with your travel plans. The same info is being provided by other airlines as well.

  • If your flight is delayed or cancelled, immediately call or get online with your airline for rebooking. Change fees are being waived by most, if not all, airlines for the volcano-related flight issues. Several airlines are also offering the option of a refund on your ticket, though refunds may take several weeks to get to you due to the current volume of refunds. (Though why is it that a high volume of people booking tickets doesn’t slow down the process of posting the charges to our credit cards?)
  • Look for alternative transportation:

I sent a ‘tweet’ to my Twitter followers asking for a Plan B if my flight to Aberdeen is cancelled once I reach Paris. I received great replies such as:

Eurostar to London, recheck air options – train or bus to Aberdeen Natl Express Bus runs 3 coaches daily or

Chunnel or Calais/Dover ferry, train to London, and train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh then connect to Aberdeen

(If you are on Twitter but feel your follower count is too low to receive answers, ask a fellow Twitterer to post or retweet your request. Most people are happy to help.)

Do a Google search. I typed in ‘how to get from Paris to Aberdeen’ and Eurostar train was the first link to come up, with many more viable flight, train and bus results to review.

  • If you purchased insurance for your trip, you may be entitled to a refund or other compensation. Read the insurance policy’s wording carefully to see what is and is not covered and also look at the procedures for making a claim as they differ from insurer to insurer.

Hopefully this volcano will quiet itself down for hundreds of years and Volcanic Ash Updates will no longer be on our airline alerts. In the meantime, keep informed and consider alternative plans … and consider visiting other parts of our great planet for the next little while.

As for me, I’ve got the Eurostar website bookmarked if I have a flight cancellation to Aberdeen once I’ve landed in Paris.

But then again, I have great travel karma so I shouldn’t need this Plan B (fingers crossed!).

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