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Iceland volcano eruption: 20,000 European passengers stranded in RP

The NAIA terminal teems with departing passengers whose flights to Europe were cancelled due to volcanic ashfall in Iceland. RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - More than 20,000 Europeans are still stranded in the country since April 16 due to the closure of airspace in Northern Europe, after a major volcanic eruption in Iceland on April 14.

Since then, more connecting flights to Europe have been cancelled. Passengers are adviced to call the airlines frequently for the possible rescheduling of their  flights as soon as the airspace is back to normal.

Departing  passengers are trapped in the country, waiting for the ash clouds that blanket parts of Europe to clear so that dozens of flights could start flying out of Manila to deliver  them to different parts of the European continent.

One of those waiting to be accommodated in KLM, the only airline with direct flight to Europe, is David Hampson, a security risk analyst and humanitarian worker. Hampson is from Manchester, England, who had spent the last two weeks in Benguet and Boracay and now, could not find enough activity to fill his time while waiting for the airlines to tell him when he could leave. He also said that he has been going back and forth to the KLM office, inquiring for flight resumption, only to be met with more frustrations.

“I was told that if I miss my flight on a certain date and the flight resumes tomorrow, those who are scheduled for that flight are leaving but not me. I have to be re-scheduled again.”

KLM, has non-stop flights to Amsterdam which has four flights cancelled since April 16 with about 1,600 passengers on its waiting list.

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Joan Doromal, station manager, estimates that there are about a dozen other flights that leave Manila with Europe-bound passengers getting connections to Europe either from Hong Kong, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. These air carriers include Cathay Pacific, which has five flights out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Singapore Airlines, which has four flights out of the NAIA and Philippine Airlines, which has about four flights to Hong Kong and four to Singapore.

Since Manila is considered a hub in Asia, China Airlines, Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Gulf Air, Saudia, and Kuwait Airways also fly out of the premier airports, bringing European-bound passengers to the Middle East for connecting flights to parts of Europe.

The second eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland on April 14 caused extensive air travel disruption across large parts of Europe. In response to fears that particles ejected by the volcano into standard flight corridors could damage aircraft engines, the airspace of many countries was closed, stranding millions of travelers. It was the largest air traffic shut-down since World War II.

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