Stranded passengers still remain in Houston

April 20, 2010 3:03:49 PM PDT
Five days after the massive volcano eruption in Iceland shut down a large part of European airspace, things are slowly starting to move again. On Monday afternoon, meteorologists in Iceland say the volcano's eruptions were weakening, and the ash that had grounded airlines in Europe and around the world is no longer rising to a height where it would endanger large commercial aircraft.

That's good news for the millions of travelers who have been waiting for the skies to clear. The ash even forced cancellations here in Houston, where dozens of international flyers have been waiting for the skies to clear. Some of them say officials at Bush Intercontinental have been less-than-hospitable hosts.

"We need to go to Amsterdam and yeah, we're stuck here," said Dutch traveler Wim Vamaltot. "We sleep here in the terminal on the floor."

Continental Airlines cancelled 66 flights to Europe Monday, 10 of them to and from Houston. The airline said as of Monday morning, it was only flying to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Oslo and Stockholm, areas not affected by a flow of volcanic ash from Iceland.

It certainly didn't help Anthony Mader, who was trying to fly home to Paris.

"I'm supposed to have my flight at 3:40pm," he said.

Authorities with the Houston airport system were in several meetings with airlines Monday to discuss what, if anything, should be done to help the stranded passengers. Many were upset, especially after hearing about what was going on at other international airports.

"Yeah, that's a bit of a strange situation because we heard that in the European countries, there is help, even for the American people and here there is nothing," said Vamaltot.

But by Monday afternoon, the airport authority had decided to go ahead and provide food and a cot to anyone with a valid itinerary or ticket to a closed European airport.

As for Moder, he found something a little more comfortable until he can finally get on a plane back to France.

"Actually, I have a friend of my childhood who used to live in France, but their parents moved to Houston and I know them," he told us.

The shutdowns started last Wednesday when a volcano in Iceland begun erupting and spewing ash across Europe. The aviation industry says it's been losing at least $200 million a day since then.

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