Some European flights reopen. . .for the moment

A limited number of flights took off this morning in Europe after an emergency meeting of EU transport ministers eased the flight ban on those parts of Europe with a lesser amount of ash. Several major airports, such as those in Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, have seen limited departures. The millions of people waiting for a flight now have some hope of reaching their destination, or at least getting home after being stuck on layovers.

The volcano, however, seems to have other ideas. After a period of reduced activity, a new eruption has belched out a giant cloud of ash that’s heading for the United Kingdom, casting doubt on whether the reopening of a few airports there will last.

The economic impact is widespread, especially for the airlines, whose losses have already passed $1 billion. The tourism industry is also sustaining losses, but this is offset to some degree by people stuck overseas an having to continue to spend money. Luckily this didn’t happen during peak tourist season. Businesses that rely on air freight, such as importers of tropical fruit and flowers, are getting hit hard.

In the meantime, people are scrambling to find alternate modes of transport. My wife, who took many of the photos in our Ethiopia travel series, is still in Oxford trying to figure out how to get back to Madrid. There are no train tickets available until next week and the only transportation her travel agency could offer was a €500 ($672) bus ticket from Paris to Madrid. That’s more than three times the usual price. They also didn’t give any suggestion of how she could get to Paris. British Airways has her scheduled for a flight this afternoon, but since they just announced they’ve canceled all short-haul flights for today I doubt I’ll see her tonight.

Oh, and for some reason BA started following my Twitter feed.

Multiply this tale of frustration by a million, and you get some idea what it’s like to be in Europe right now.