Volcanic Ash Refugees Extend Stay

The experience has been described as the “waiting game”

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego
    Causing chaos for air travel

    Volcanic ash kept planes on the ground around the world for five days and left hundreds of thousands of passengers stuck for days. San Diego played host to a number of refugees over the weekend including an entire lacrosse team from England.

    Early Monday, Germany's aviation authority says it has granted Lufthansa permission to fly 50 planes back to Germany with about 15,000 passengers aboard.

    As airline losses spiraled over $1 billion, Eurocontrol, the air traffic agency in Brussels, said less than one-third of flights in Europe were taking off Monday -- between 8,000 and 9,000 of the continent's 28,000 scheduled flights. Airports in southern Europe were open, however, and Spain offered to become an emergency hub for the whole continent.

    Passengers Stranded at Lindbergh by Volcano

    [DGO] Passengers Stranded at Lindbergh by Volcano
    Thousands of planes stayed on the tarmac Friday to avoid the hazardous cloud of volcanic ash sifting down on parts of northern Europe.

    At Lindbergh Field flights are running on-time Monday however, the biggest problem here hasn't been the flights out but rather the connections for international travelers.

    Passengers stranded in San Diego county have had to extend hotel stays and cancel personal engagements, as they wait for the green light to fly back home.

    Iceland Volcano

    [DGO] Iceland Volcano
    Test flights took off today to check airspace

    “There are thousands of us, all over the world,” said stranded passenger Kit Strange. “We are completely trapped.”

    Strange traveled from Northern England to San Diego last week to take part in a conference in Mission Valley. While he waits for the volcanic ash to no longer be a traveling issue, he’s trying to enjoy all the beauty and leisure the city offers.

    Nonetheless, the uncertainty of not knowing when he’ll be able to fly back home is taking its toll.

    “It’s a bit frustrating,” said Strange. “I’m supposed to be working in Belgium and then France later this week and that’s not going to happen now.”

    Strange is not alone. Among his fellow refugees is a lacrosse team of about 30 teenage girls from St. Catherine High School in London, England. About two weeks ago, the international students came to California to compete in several lacrosse tournaments against local high schools, including La Jolla High, Coronado and Scripps Ranch.

    “Everyone has been so kind,” said head coach Vic Alexander. “We are so lucky that Americans are so friendly, so warm, so hospitable.”

    When word of their flight cancellation got out, their new group of friends from Scripps Ranch decided to host a pool party and barbecue for their English friends.

    “Scripps invited us to their pool club and we’ve just been staying here and getting to know different people,” said player Emily Fitzsimons.

    The team is still in limbo not knowing their next step.

    “It’s also quite unnerving not knowing when we are going to go home,” said Fitzsimons.

    In the meantime, as traveling schedules become unpredictable, Alexander is looking into organizing more activities while the team waits.

    “So we’re going to make a few phone calls and see if there are a couple of other schools that might be willing to play us,” said Alexander. “We need to keep our girls amused while they are here in California, which is not a bad place to be stuck at."