CAIRO: The cloud of volcanic ash spreading across large swaths of Europe has grounded much of Egypt’s air traffic to and from Western and Central Europe.
The ash, emanating from the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajokull, has been causing havoc with flights to, from, and within Europe since Friday. As of Sunday, 48 flights had been cancelled going to and from Egypt. Over 16,000 European flights were cancelled on Saturday alone, according to officials.
EgyptAir announced it will suspend all flights to airports affected by the ash cloud.
“In a continuation of the European Aviation Centers’ precautionary measures of closing the airspaces after the volcanic ashes erupted in Iceland, EgyptAir has cancelled its flights bound to closed European airports, the airline said in a statement.
EgyptAir is now directing aircraft to airports in areas still unaffected by the ash. The national airline has also increased the size of its aircraft flying into those airports to compensate for increased demand.
EgyptAir said they will rebook passengers on new flights without charging any extra fees or penalties.
“EgyptAir is working hard to fly customers to alternative European cities in which the airports are still operating, said Alaa Ashour, chairman and CEO of EgyptAir. “Teams all over the EgyptAir network are contacting customers flying on EgyptAir’s European flights through Cairo International Airport to brief them on the situation. minimizing congestion [in] Cairo.
Once on the European continent, travelers are advised to use trains, buses, or other ground transport to continue to their final destination.
However, while the ash cloud has not affected forms of European ground transport, the increased demand has. Ticketing requests have caused Eurostar’s website to crash multiple times. While extra trains have been added, they are filling up within minutes.
“We are doing everything we can by adding extra trains to help passengers who are experiencing problems, Eurostar officials said in a statement. “But, inevitably, our trains are very busy.
Eurostar has asked travelers not to come to any train station unless they already have confirmed reservation.
Others have hired private transportation. English actor John Cleese paid a taxicab $4,950 to take him to Brussels after having been grounded in Oslo.
“We checked every option but there were no boats and no train tickets available, he said. “That’s when my fabulous assistant determined the easiest thing would be to take a taxi.
The volcanic activity may continue for another week, experts said Sunday.
Edwin Zanen, a Dutch geologist in Iceland, said the volcano Eyjafjallajokull showed “no sign of slowing down.
“On the contrary, he said. “We can see at this moment it’s extremely active.
Many Egyptians who planned to travel to Europe have had to cancel their plans.
The popular site Twitter was abuzz with news of the delays and cancellations, with users asking each other for advice on how to pass the time while stranded at their respective locations.
Nadia El-Awady, an Egyptian stranded in London, said she had been “held hostage by the volcano.
“If you are being held hostage with hundreds of thousands of other people trying to escape, I’ve discovered the UK island is virtually impossible to leave, she wrote in a blog post. “If you aren’t flying out, your only options are by train or ferry to reach the European mainland. And if you and hundreds of thousands of other people are trying to leave at the same time, your chances of finding a spot on a train or ferry in time to reach a functioning airport with an actual seat on a plane back home for you are quite slim.
“London is. a very expensive city to be held hostage in, she wrote. “Yesterday I had a tuna sandwich and some sort of fruit juice .It cost me £5.40. That’s a whopping LE 45. In Egypt, I could buy a really nice dinner with that.
However, some Egyptians stranded in Europe are using the free time to their advantage.
Mona El-Tahaway, whose flight from London to New York was cancelled, said she is using the time to “catch up with friends from way back when.
“Found a great chocolate shop and spa close to my hotel, she said. “Volcano has spoken and it wants me to eat chocolate and get a massage.
Other users in Egypt who could not fly out to Europe, were thankful that they were at least stuck at home. One user, Diptychal said, “I really shouldn’t complain, she said. “At least I’m not stranded at an airport.
EgyptAir’s customers can call 1717 from any mobile and 090070000 from any landline to check flight information. Customers are asked to continually check their flight status at www.egyptair.com, which is being updated every 5 minutes.