Volcanic Ash Disrupts Travel in Europe

April 19, 2010
Passenger Points at Flight Information Board in Spain

About the Author: Mary Ellen Hickey serves as the Managing Director for the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The Department of State is sympathetic to the thousands of travelers who have been unable to get to their destinations because of the volcanic ash cloud in Europe that has hindered air traffic. We are in close contact with the European authorities at all times and are doing everything possible to assist stranded U.S. citizens who require emergency consular assistance.

We offer these suggestions for travelers stranded in Europe due to airport closures:

* Stay up to date with the news to see which airports are open and which are closed.

* Keep checking in with your airlines.

* Check in with a travel agency. They should have up-to-date information about alternatives to airplane travel. If you used a travel agency, please check to see if you are covered by an insurance policy for this type of emergency.

* Stay in touch with loved ones to keep them informed of your whereabouts and well-being.

The Department of State is not evacuating U.S. citizens at this time. U.S. Government evacuation options are constrained by the same factors that are affecting commercial transportation. Furthermore, U.S. Government-facilitated travel by sea would take time to arrange and undertake, by which point commercial travel is likely to have resumed. The cost to travelers to repay an evacuation loan would be equivalent to the commercial rates for cross-Atlantic sea travel.

We understand that this situation is frustrating and expensive for travelers and their friends and family. If you or your loved one has run out of money and is unable to get access to funds in Europe, the Department of State can help you send money. You may find out more information about options here.

For those who are stranded and have run out of cash and credit, we have a limited amount of emergency loans that may be available, but they come with two very important conditions as required by U.S. law -- first, you have to have run out of private sources, and second, you need to know that we will limit your passport validity until you can repay the loan. The application for the emergency loan must be made at the nearest U.S. embassy.

Our embassies and consulates in Europe are maintaining their websites with as much up-to-date information about local conditions as possible.

Keep following the U.S. embassy website of the country where you are staying. Embassy and consulate websites are being updated to provide local news. You can find lists of hotels, including low cost accommodations, and medical services, such as prescription refills, on those websites. Here are just a few:

United Kingdom: London France: Paris The Netherlands: Amsterdam Germany: Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich Ireland: Dublin

You may find a full list of U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions here. Follow us on travel.state.gov, Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.



April 26, 2010

U writes:

soundtrack and face of the people stucked in airports due vulcanic cloud: youtube.com/watch?v=Hb2-0aAmyAI

be strong you ll be back at home sooner or later call home

United Kingdom
April 20, 2010

Elizabeth in the United Kingdom writes:

Your suggestions aren't realistic: Even with a cheap plan, I have spent over $300. in minute usage on my phone trying to stay in touch with the airlines and travel agencies.

Do you have any idea what the hold times are for travel agents and airlines? It is not too comforting to know that the U.S. is one of the few countries not considering the evacuating for its citizens -- yet we send billions of our tax dollars to all other countries in the form of aid -- we won't spend any money to rescue our own citizens?

The comment that the U.S. Government-facilitated travel by sea would take time to arrange and undertake is not accurate because we are now on Day Six of being stranded and no end in sight for when commercial travel is likely to resume. The cost to travelers to repay an evacuation loan would be equivalent to the commercial rates for cross-Atlantic sea travel- none of the commercial cross-Atlantic sea travel groups have space on their vessels! I would be willing to pay, but not a spot to be found.


Virginia, USA
April 20, 2010

Flavius in Virginia writes:

Hearing Elizabeth's plight, it seems to me that some sort of emergency declaration is called for. Like other disaster declarations, it would inject more money into the State Department's already existing program AND it would loosen restrictions and requirements for receiving such aid.

I imagine this could be done quickest by the President himself.

Veronica F.
April 20, 2010

Veronica F. in Germany writes:

I have to say that the information I've found offered by the U.S. State Department is woefully inadequate. I've found more valuable information that can assist U.S. citizens stranded by the volcanic ash on the British government's web site. For example, I have found out through the British government that EU rules that require passengers traveling from the EU or on a EU carrier to be accommodated by either a full refund or rerouting on the same carrier. Plus, they are entitled to hotel and food expenses. Why is this information not being proffered by the U.S. State Department? This alone would be great comfort to American travelers. Though I live in Europe, my sister is stranded in Paris. She's run out of heart medication, and after a full two days of trying to get through to her carrier, British Airways, she was offered a flight out next Monday. She has no idea of where or how to get medication. I have offered her the information on the British web site along with numbers of hospitals in Paris and doctors that speak English and may be able to help her. I strongly urge the State Department to give more support to American citizens abroad. I am outraged by the dearth of information and the lip-service that has been given to this situation. The ash cloud may be over Europe and not over the U.S. at this point, but there are thousands of American travelers who are looking to their government for basic information and are not finding it.

Brian C.
April 20, 2010

Brian Anthony C. in Italy writes:

I too have been dismayed by the slow and inadequate response of the US Government in the face of this crisis. Many people are stuck without basic needs and very few are helping, especially here in Italy, where US carriers have closed their ticket windows despite long lines of confused and desperate travelers. The embassy in Italy is not even listed on the State Dept's links, and with good reason. When I called them on Monday for advice and information they told me there NO PLANS they had heard of to do anything. To say I am disappointed is putting it mildly.

New Mexico, USA
April 21, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

I don't know if folks expect contingincy planning to have been put in place prior to an event that's never before happened on this scale in aviation history, but when my mom was stranded in Ireland after 9/11 the local authorities got their citizens to put any stranded travelers up in their homes, anouncing this on the radio and everyone had great time getting to know each other.

Thing is, folks refused her money when she offered it. And that's just the Irish for you.

It just seems there's a real simple way to deal with most of the human misery caused by all this disruption.

This is more about accessing the "good samaritan" in everyone than casting blame on governments for not being prepared for it.

It's a real good opportunity for the world to get a grip on itself and take this time to stop and think.

Be the solution, not bleating sheep.

New York, USA
May 3, 2010

Susan in New York writes:

Hiiiiiiiiiiii all,

I like the service of Volcanic Ash Disrupts Travel their service for the customer is just outstanding.



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