European flights grounded due to Icelandic volcano

The massive eruption of a volcano in Iceland may be turning into a local tourist attraction, but it’s seriously hurting the travel industry. Ash from the volcano is heading for the skies over the UK and Scandinavia and has caused most flights in the UK to be grounded.

The thick, gritty ash can damage engines, causing them to jam, so all airports in Scotland are closed, as are numerous airports in England, including Heathrow. Ireland’s airports are also reporting widespread delays and cancellations.

Other airports in Northern Europe are also closing or experiencing heavy cancellations, including in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

Twice in the 1980s airplanes flying through clouds of volcanic ash had their engines seize up. Both times the pilots were able to steer away from the clouds and restart the engines, but needless to say aviation officials don’t want to risk another incident.

Since the volcano is still churning out so much ash that it can be seen from space, as this NASA image shows, it is unclear how long the delays will last. If you are flying to, from, or around Europe over the next few days, call your airline for the latest updates. We’ll keep you posted here at Gadling too.

Stress gets to Susan Boyle at Heathrow

With all the regulation shifts, evacuations and the recent terror attempt on Christmas Day, it’s a stressful time to fly.

Stress affects all of us; passengers, airport staff, pilots and yes, even superstars. Perhaps it was stress that got to Britain’s Got Talent prodigy Susan Boyle at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday.

According to HolyMoly, Boyle suffered a complete mental breakdown in the British Airways lounge. She grabbed a mop from a cleaner and began using it as a microphone, then polished other lounge guests’ shoes with it. BA employees reportedly tried to stop her, and she took off running, eventually bursting through the doors of the usually-peaceful lounge screaming “I’ve escaped! I’ve escaped!”

“A BA official had to sit with the singer until she regained composure and boarded the flight to Chicago,” reports HolyMoly, adding that the singer is heading to the US to appear on Oprah. Chelsea Handler mentioned this week on Chelsea Lately that the star is also working on a line of Susan Boyle products like t-shirts and mugs. While the TV circuit and souvenir development are normal celebrity activities, stress may be piling up on Boyle, who has a history of mental illness and has become very famous very fast.

If this were any other celebrity, we’d assume it was drugs — and we’d probably be fed a bogus story about a bad reaction to a sleeping medication. We wonder how the Boyle PR camp will spin this.

Worst travel mistakes of the 2000’s : Locked in the lounge

As we look back at the past ten years, and prepare ourselves for the next ten, lets take a moment to remember the dumbest mistake we ever made when traveling. For the coming week, we’ll entertain you with embarrassing stories of our dumbest travel mistakes, all for the sole purpose of your entertainment.

For me, the dumbest thing I did in the past ten years was fall asleep in the airport arrivals lounge.

It all happened when I arrived at Heathrow after a quick trip to New York. As I had a 4 hour layover, I decided to go landside for a full (free) English breakfast in the lounge followed by a quick shower. I then took “a short nap” in the serenity room.

This room was probably one of the quietest and most comfortable in the airport, because I was awoken by a security guard 17 hours later. This also happened to be a full 9 hours after the lounge had closed for the day. I either set off the alarm, or he was on his rounds checking for stupid people who fall asleep in the lounge.

A British Airways representative met me and apologized profusely for failing to notice I was still in the lounge. The airline then took care of rebooking me for a flight to Amsterdam the next morning, and provided a room at the airport Sheraton.

This is by no means the only stupid thing I’ve done during my many years of traveling, but it is the one that has stuck with the most – and the one that always brings back fond memories of the almost 325 trips I took passing through Heathrow Airport.

Tomorrow we’ll bring you another story of a dumb travel mistake, and later this week you’ll have the chance to tell us your own favorite – with a chance at winning a fantastic prize!

Inside Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class clubhouse

Any traveler who has come within a stone’s throw of a major American airport has heard of the Virgin airlines. Among other brands, they’ve got Virgin America operating service between a handfull of fortunate, domestic cites, V Australia bouncing between Los Angeles and Australia and the granddaddy, Virgin Atlantic, serving the United Kingdom and beyond.

Throughout the years, the airline has cultivated a quality product, a hip, posh experience that bucks the trend of traditional airline travel, driving down prices, impressing passengers and ruffling a few feathers along the way.

Among the avenues that they use to excel this product is the Clubhouse, Virgin Atlantic’s signature lounge built for the pampering of upper (business) class passengers and Flying Club gold members before and after their flights. And these are no ordinary, anemic lounges, either. Each clubhouses embodies the Virgin brand with top quality services, appointments, food and drink.

The opening of their newest lounge at London Gatwick last month piqued our interest, so Gadling decided to take a first-hand peek inside of a similar clubouse for a closer look at the offerings. Passing through London Heathrow this past holiday, we had the chance to stop in for a visit to their flagship lounge.

%Gallery-80310%In case you’ve never been, international airline lounges are generally pretty formulaic. A series of front desks provide passenger screening and assistance – you can go here to check your flight, make changes and ask questions about your tickets. Inside of the lounges you’ll find a variety of food, beverage and pampering amenities, as well as the occasional shower and entertainment feature. It’s all fairly standard for an international lounge.

Where Virgin Atlantic excels is in the quality of these amenities. Heathrow’s Clubhouse is a sprawling, multi leveled complex, cleanly appointed in white and wooden tones throughout. The massive open space has been segmented into different themed regions, each area offering a different take on relaxation. There’s the poolside section, for example, where a dozen seats and tables sprawl around a waterfall and pond, or a runway-facing lounge where airline enthusiasts can watch jets and crew scamper around the tarmac. They’ve even got a rooftop deck for warm weather plane spotting.


In preparation for the upcoming flights, passengers can have a shower or book Cowshed treatments for a quick manicure, pedicure or shave. And naturally, a full deli backed up by a wide range of top shelf liquor, beer, juice and smoothies is available for grazing.

The entire setting is engineered to create the perfect, serene, pre-flight experience, the complete antithesis of the madness of Heathrow. And though Gatwick’s lounge will be slightly smaller, the same concepts and appointments will carry through, down to the same Cowshed treatments available in-house.

To visit the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, passengers must be booked in Upper Class or be a Flying Club Gold member with no single-use or day passes available. You can find branded clubhouses in London Heathrow, London Gatwick, New York’s JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, San Francisco, Boston, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Amenities will differ slightly by location.

Survey shows best airports for making your (love) connection

If you think about it, all of the stars are aligned at an airport.

Get a group of people together with a) a common interest in travel, b) extra time on their hands, and c) good ol’ human chemistry, and you’ve got a petri dish with love connections in the making.

But a new survey argues that not every airport is equal in opportunity. Oh no.

The top three airports are Newark, JFK, and Philadelphia. Foreign rendezvous aren’t excluded, mind you. The first three international listings are Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, London’s Heathrow, and Rome’s Fiumicino.

The 33 largest international airports were rated on on-time statistics, historical weather conditions, and amenities (bars, restaurants, activities) per person per airport.

For example, a connection is more likely to happen if you have a long layover at a place with great restaurant options.

Along with the report on AXE’s Facebook page are suggestions for making the most of your wait time, such as: “Spark conversation by casually pulling out your small wad of left-over foreign currency.”

The survey was created by Sperling’s BestPlaces, and commissioned by Axe (makers of grooming products for men).