Trapped in Ireland for the Volcano, by Davy Gaeremynck

May 4, 2010

Irish Times photo, Volcanic Ash, Iceland

Ireland wasn’t a bad country to be stranded in, at least we had in the meanwhile the chance to witness the first 14 days of nonstop sunshine in their history.

The trip to Ireland was meant to last for exactly one week, from Friday, April 9th to Friday, April 16th, flying with SAS between Stockholm and Dublin. To save on logistics and expenses, only one of my three PA’s joined me.

The plan was to visit Dublin and pick up an adapted rental car on Monday, so that we could explore the northern half of the country. After driving via Belfast, Derry, and Sligo, we heard Thursday on the radio in Galway that airspace in many European countries had been closed due to an ash cloud after the vulcanic eruption on Iceland.

We drove back from Galway to Dublin during the night of Thursday to Friday and on arrival the receptionist suggested that we just as well could stay for more than one as all flights from Dublin had been canceled. Our flight to Stockholm was scheduled for 11:45 am and when we were at the airport around 9, we didn’t feel lonely. After queuing for about an hour we got the message that we were rescheduled for the flight on Monday, April 19th. We could also come to the airport on Sunday and see if there were any standby places left on that flight to Stockholm. There was no information available on help with alternatives, such as accommodation or compensation.

We called our car rental company and they extended our rental period to Monday, April 19th. During those days, we visited Cork, the south coast, Killarney, and Limerick. As we were rescheduled for Monday, we got back to Dublin airport and they booked us for the flight on Friday, 23rd. On asking for any help, they replied that no accommodation or compensation could be provided: “We did so the first two days, but not any more as the airlines would go bust.”

Our rental car got picked up at the hotel. and we started to feel locked in, in Dublin. We followed the news quite attentively and checked the status of airspace, airports and flights several times per day. We started thinking of other alternatives to get back home. The closed airspace above Britain had cut off Ireland from mainland Europe for any flight. Even David Egan from Dublin CIL gave us tips, but traveling from Dublin to Stockholm by ferry, train, Eurostar and train would take at least 3 days, and tickets for the Eurostar between London and Brussels were on Tuesday morning already sold out until Thursday evening. Taking the ferry between Dover and Calais, seemed a bit risky as there was a transport strike going on in France. As I was traveling with a personal assistant, I  was to pay the transportation costs for two persons. At the earliest, we could have arrived in Stockholm on Friday morning, with the use of alternative means. We saw and heard that test flights went well and that airlines were eager to start operating again.

Our guess was that the best alternative was to extend our hotel stay day by day and wait for the first flight with SAS to Stockholm. We were on that first direct SAS flight to Stockholm and we used our time in Dublin for visiting some more museums and Guinness and Jameson lightened our misery. Now we are involved in the struggle to get some refund for our week extended hotel costs, it should work out well, we were flying to a EU country.

About a month earlier, my flight from New York to Stockholm via Iceland, was delayed due to a smaller volcano eruption.

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