Tales From the Volcano

Now that European airports are open and (as far as I know), no planes have fallen out of the sky, it’s time to look back on the aftermath of the IcCranky vs the Volcanoelandic volcano. We worked on some pretty crazy itineraries at Cranky Concierge, so I thought I’d share some of them with you, because, well, it’s just fun to dork out on itineraries like these.

Perhaps the craziest one we found was one that wasn’t actually used. We had a client, let’s call him Doc, stranded in London when his flight canceled last Monday. Doc had to get to Toronto by Wednesday. So what happened? We came up with this:

*Eurostar from London to Paris Tuesday morning
*TGV from Paris to Irun (at the Spanish Frontier)
*Overnight train from Irun to Lisbon, arriving Wednesday morning
*SATA from Lisbon to Toronto via the Azores on Wednesday afternoon

Anyone ever flown SATA? I’d love to hear what that’s like, but Doc decided not to go and instead just wait it out in London. (He made it out last Friday.)

The very first call we received about the volcano was at 230a PT on Friday, April 16. A new client, his name will be Thor, called from Halifax saying he was heading to New York and then was on Delta to London that afternoon. He fully expected the flight to be canceled, so he asked us to help. (It canceled soon after.) We were able to snag the very last seat on the New York – Keflavik (Iceland) flight that night on Icelandair connecting to Glasgow in the morning. At that point, Glasgow was still open.

Thor made it to Iceland, but the airspace closed in Glasgow before he was able to get there. Fortunately, Icelandair put him up for the first night and paid for his meals. That was far better than he would have received from Delta in New York. Icelandair started to send airplanes anywhere they could fly: they sent several flights to Trondheim, Norway. (And now that Keflavik is impacted by the volcano, they actually just started operating flights via Glasgow instead – amazing flexibility which you can read more about on BNET today.)

Thor didn’t want to mess around with visiting Norway and not having a way to get out of there, so he hung out in Iceland where the high speed internet gave him everything he needed. He spent three nights in Iceland before finally being booked on Tuesday to go to Heathrow. When Heathrow didn’t open, they sent him to Edinburgh and he hopped a train home.

The toughest challenge we faced was a client, we’ll call her Oksana, heading to the first Theatre on Ice world championships being held in Toulouse. She wasn’t going to watch; she was there to compete. When her British Airways flight on Monday canceled, she had to find a way to get there.

After looking at several different options that involved everything from Dubai to Tripoli, we settled on the best option and it wasn’t going to be easy.

Oksana was in San Diego, but she ended up buying a ticket from LA to Tel Aviv on El Al on Wednesday connecting to another El Al flight to Madrid on Thursday. From there, she booked an overnight train from Madrid to Barcelona, arriving Friday morning. Then she would rent a car and drive the 3 hours or so to Toulouse, getting in just in time for her mandatory practice.

Unfortunately, British Airways wasn’t nearly as flexible as Icelandair and refused to simply cancel her outbound and let her keep the return. So we had to find Oksana another return. This one was easy – Swiss from Barcelona to Zurich and then on to LA. Then it would just be a short hop on American down to San Diego.

As you can imagine, this combined option wasn’t cheap (in fact, if you’d like to help defray the additional cost, they’re accepting donations via Paypal to helpctoi@gmail.com), but it got them there, and that was the name of the game throughout this entire couple of weeks.

Now that the backlog is clearing out and airlines are starting add flights, people are finally getting where they need to go. It’s incredible to think about how many special occasions were ruined because people couldn’t get there. These are just a couple stories out of a sea of hundreds of thousands, if not more. Just imagine how many didn’t turn out this well.

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