Saturday, April 17, 2010

Volcanic ash spreads more travel misery across Europe

View: I'm supposed to be flying on the coming Wednesday...hope the weather situation will improve in the next 24 hours!

Map showing spread of volcanic ash from Iceland

Millions of stranded travellers face further air chaos as the volcanic ash from Iceland that has closed most of Europe's airspace continues to spread.

An estimated three-quarters of flights were cancelled on Saturday. About 20 countries closed their airspace - some have extended flight bans into Monday.

Scientists say the Icelandic volcano activity shows no sign of abating.

Dutch airline KLM and German airline Lufthansa have carried out test flights to see if it is safe for planes to fly.

Britain has extended a ban on most flights in its airspace until at least 1800 GMT Sunday, air authorities have said.

KLM said its plane, a Boeing 737, had reached its maximum operating altitude of about 13km in the skies over the Netherlands, and there had been no problems during the flight.

The aircraft and its engines were being inspected for possible damage. After the results of that technical inspection the airline hopes to get permission from the aviation authorities to start up operations again.

Germany's Lufthansa said it flew several planes to Frankfurt from Munich.

A spokesman said: "All airplanes have been inspected on arrival in Frankfurt but there was no damage to the cockpit windows or fuselage and no impact on the engines."

Earlier, a spokesman for the international airline industry said: "We don't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet."

Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told the Associated Press news agency: "It's the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight."

Graeme Leitch, a meteorologist at Britain's National Weather Service, said light winds and high pressure over Europe meant the cloud was unlikely to be dispersed soon.

"We don't expect a great deal of change over the next few days," he told AP.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted little or no improvement on Sunday.

"Right now through most of Europe we do not see many flights moving at all," spokesman Steve Lott told AFP news agency.

Airlines are losing some £130m ($200m) a day in an unprecedented shutdown of commercial air travel, the IATA says.

Eurocontrol, which co-ordinates air traffic control in 38 nations, said it expected 17,000 flights to be cancelled across Europe on Saturday, from a total of 22,000 on a normal day.

Long way home

Since Thursday, countries across northern and central Europe have either closed airspace or shut key airports as the ash - a mixture of glass, sand and rock particles - can seriously damage aircraft engines.

In the UK commercial flights have now been banned until at least 0700 local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday.

In northern France and northern Italy, airports are to remain shut until at least Monday.

Unable to catch flights, commuters across northern Europe have sought other means of transport, packing out trains, buses and ferries.

The Eurostar cross-channel rail service said it had never seen so many passengers on one day and the trains were fully booked until Monday.

I've only got enough medication for my epilepsy to last me until tomorrow, so my seizures are likely to start again unless I get access to that
George Craib, Amsterdam

The large no-fly zone also means that some world leaders will not be attending the funeral of the Polish president on Sunday.

US President Barack Obama has cancelled his visit to Poland.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was due to return from a visit to the US on Friday, had to fly to Lisbon where she spent the night.

With all German airports still closed, she flew on to Italy on Saturday and is set to continue her journey home by bus.

The disruption also forced the cancellation of the inaugural Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to London.

Ash plume from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano 17 April 2010

US pop star Whitney Houston was forced to take a car ferry from Britain to Ireland for a concert after her flight was cancelled.

The travel chaos has been felt as far away as North America and Asia, with dozens of Europe-bound flights being cancelled.

British health officials said any effects of the ash on people with existing respiratory conditions were "likely to be short term".

Southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano began erupting for the second time in a month on Wednesday, sending a plume of ash 8.5km (5.3 miles) high into the air.

Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the highly volatile boundary between the Eurasian and North American continental plates.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

American raises checked-bag fees

View: This is ridiculous! $60 for bags one way? FYI for $20 or more, you can get a one-way ticket on Southwest Airlines. I really hope the this attempt will backfire and drive all passengers to other airlines.

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
January 19, 2010 1:40 p.m. EST
American Airlines matched competitors' baggage fee hikes.
American Airlines matched competitors' baggage fee hikes.
  • American Airlines last of five legacy carriers to raise baggage fees
  • Passengers to pay $25 for first checked bag and $35 for second
  • Changes effective for tickets purchased on or after February 1

(CNN) -- American Airlines has joined its competitors in raising checked luggage fees.

The airline announced Monday it would charge $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. American is the last major legacy carrier to join in a wave of baggage fee increases that Delta Air Lines initiated earlier this month.

The changes are effective for tickets purchased on or after February 1 for travel within the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Delta, United and Continental airlines, and US Airways all are charging $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag checked in at the airport. Passengers who check in online on those four airlines will pay $23 for the first bag and $32 for the second. American does not offer online check-in.

About 25 percent of American's domestic passengers pay checked bag fees, according to the airline's announcement.

Some passengers -- such as first-class fliers, some frequent fliers and military personnel on deployment -- are exempt from most checked-luggage fees.

Most major air carriers started adding checked-bag fees in 2008. The airlines reported collecting nearly $740 million in baggage fees in the third quarter of 2009, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

On discount carrier Southwest Airlines, the first and second checked bags are free. JetBlue offers a free first checked bag and charges $30 for the second.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Airlines organizing Haiti earthquake aid

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
January 14, 2010 10:49 a.m. EST
Three American Eagle aircraft flew supplies to Haiti on Wednesday after the devastating earthquake.
Three American Eagle aircraft flew supplies to Haiti on Wednesday after the devastating earthquake.

(CNN) -- Airlines, uncertain about when commercial service to disaster-ravaged Haiti will resume, are organizing relief flights and offering incentives to customers who donate to aid organizations.

AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle, sent three American Eagle aircraft into Haiti on Wednesday carrying 30,000 pounds of relief supplies, including food, water and other nonperishable goods, for airline employees and local hospitals and aid efforts, said American spokesman Tim Smith.

The airline plans to send three more relief flights each day on Thursday and Friday.

Twitter reports that the airline is flying aid workers to Haiti are false, Smith said Thursday.

"Last night's hoax on Twitter about American and JetBlue flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free was just that -- a hoax. We do not know who is responsible. We cannot fly any passengers to Haiti at this time," he said.

The airline is offering its frequent-flier program members mileage incentives for contributing to the Red Cross. Starting Thursday, members can earn a one-time bonus of 250 miles for a minimum donation of $50 or 500 miles for a donation of $100 or more through February 28, according to American's Web site.

"We invite our customers to join us in supporting the American Red Cross, and it is with our deepest appreciation that we acknowledge their generosity with this opportunity to earn AAdvantage miles," said Peter J. Dolara, an American senior vice president, in a statement.

American has suspended service to Haiti. Passengers with plans to travel there this month may change them without fee or penalty through February 14.

U.S. Embassy staff at the Port-au-Prince airport said the tower and the lights were working, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday.

Spirit Airlines, which operates one flight a day between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Port-au-Prince also canceled Wednesday and Thursday flights.

Customers with reservations for travel to, from or through Haiti between Wednesday and Sunday may rebook their travel without penalty, provided the new departure is on or before February 7, according to Spirit's Web site. The airline will waive the change fee for travelers who move their travel beyond February 7, but it will charge for any difference in fare.

The airline plans to resume flights as soon as commercial service reopens at the Port-au-Prince airport.

The airline will give 5,000 free Spirit miles to the first 200,000 members of its frequent-flier program who donate at least $5 to UNICEF, the Red Cross or YĆ©le Haiti. Members must register online to participate.

Delta Air Lines has canceled its one daily flight between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Port-au-Prince through Saturday, said spokesman Anthony Black in an e-mail.

"We also have no current plans to operate charter service as we have not received an 'official' request from the government or our partner relief organizations," he said.

JetBlue Airways does not fly into Haiti, but the airline is waiving change fees and fare differences for passengers who were scheduled to fly into neighboring Dominican Republic between Wednesday and Sunday. Passengers may rebook flights between the same cities to depart anytime through next Wednesday, according to the airline's Web site.

JetBlue's operations in the Dominican Republic have not been disrupted, but the airline advises passengers traveling from cities in the Dominican Republic to allow extra time getting to the airport due to possible road closures as a result of the earthquake, its Web site said.