Asia travellers get small respite from Europe volcano chaos

A handful of flights left Asian air hubs on Tuesday for Europe, offering a glimmer of hope to thousands of people stranded.

Asia travellers get small respite from Europe volcano chaos

A handful of flights left Asian air hubs on Tuesday for Europe, offering a glimmer of hope to thousands of people stranded after ash from an Icelandic volcano shut down swathes of European airspace.

A Lufthansa aircraft took off from Beijing international airport around 12 noon local time (0400 GMT) bound for Frankfurt, the first flight to Northern Europe to leave China since late last week.

Earlier in the morning, an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna touched down at Beijing at 6:31 am local time (2231 GMT), according to Beijing airport's website (www.bcia.com.cn).

At least five more flights, bound for London, Paris, Rome and Munich, operated by British Airways, Lufthansa and Air China, were scheduled to leave later in the day.

At Tokyo's Narita airport, flights to hubs such as London and Paris remained canceled, but flights to Zurich and Istanbul were running and some passengers used these to try and find a way back.

Most flights between Hong Kong and Europe were grounded on Tuesday, but at least six planes to Paris, Toulouse, Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam were set to take off, according to airport authorities.

"We have been stuck in Hong Kong since the 16th. We were due to fly out on the 16th, the flight has been delayed until tomorrow," said British passenger Zanessa Booth.

"We totally understand the situation, but we are stuck in Hong Kong, having to pay for the hotel room."

Passengers in Beijing said they were keeping their fingers crossed.

"I was originally supposed to leave on Friday at the same time but the flight was cancelled," said Sia Kasch, who was waiting for her Lufthansa flight to take her back to Munich.

"That is why I spent the entire weekend trying to find alternative flights. Aeroflot via Moscow, Qatar via Doha. Much hoping, many alternatives, but nothing came of them," she added.

At least 18 fights to and from European cities, mostly northern Europe, were cancelled in Beijng on Tuesday.

In China's commercial capital of Shanghai, an Air France flight left for Paris in the morning, and a few more aircraft were expected to fly to Europe in the afternoon.

At Narita, long lines formed as passengers queued in an attempt to get a seat on one of the flights heading back to Europe.

Hoping to find out which flights were actually taking off, many have been staying close to airport in order to try and get on the first available flight out.

"We got accommodation at a hotel close, and we've just come in every day to see what's happening. But we were given a phone number that didn't work, and that's been a bit horrendous," said one of the travellers, Carroll Hanning.

The ash cloud has paralyzed air traffic in much of northern Europe, and for those such as Kristen Sakrison who was attempting to head home to Sweden, the cloud has kept her on the ground for over four days.

"I celebrated my 63rd birthday here in Japan, unfortunately because of the volcano," she said.

Narita airport has set up support desks, offering stuck passengers free shower coupons, rest areas, PCs with Internet connections and English newspapers.

A spokesman from the Narita International Airport Corp, which runs the airport, says the company has also started giving free hamburgers and french fries to those staying overnight at the airport.

A Narita city spokesman added that they had started offering free sightseeing bus tours.


Reuters

Last Mod: 20 Nisan 2010, 11:26
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