Stranded Canadians stuck in airline purgatory
An untold number of Canadians find themselves stuck in places they aren't supposed to be, as a major shutdown of European air travel continues to drag on for a sixth day.
The volcanic ash cloud drifting towards Britain has led to the cancellation of 95,000 flights in the last week alone, with millions of passengers scrambling to make alternate arrangements to reach their intended destinations.
The ash cloud was created by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, which has continued to spew ash into the sky since last Wednesday.
In Ottawa, the Department of Foreign Affairs says it is "closely monitoring the eruption's effects on travel," but has yet to order an evacuation for stranded Canadian citizens.
Its website advises Canadians to work with their selected airline and travel professionals to work out other travel arrangements.
The department also says it is a good idea for Canadians to extend their travel insurance to guarantee they are covered while they are away from home.
Foreign Affairs also says Canadians can contact their nearest government office to obtain information about local hospitals or places to get their prescriptions refilled if need be.
The department has received 200 calls from stranded Canadians, a spokesperson told CTV.ca Tuesday afternoon, while Canadian embassies across Europe have received about 500 calls, all since last Thursday.
For many Canadians stranded abroad, the unexpected delays have become a test of patience.
Toronto's Al Ismaili has been stranded in London for several days, but told CTV's Canada AM that "it's starting to feel like a good week-and-a-half now because I was supposed to be out of the country a few days ago."
Since learning he wasn't going to be able to return home on time, Ismaili has been spending his time checking news reports to see what is happening up in the sky.
Ismaili said he's been talking to his airline and his travel agent trying to work out the quickest way to fly home.
Though he is getting tired of being away from home, Ismaili said there is no one person or organization to blame for the situation.
"Everyone is quite agitated by the situation, but in the end you have to decide who is at fault. Is really even anyone at fault?" he said during an interview on Tuesday morning.
"The governments, are they being overly cautious? Are the airlines, in turn, listening to the government and then not being cautious enough because they want to force the air space to open? And then you have Mother Nature, also that you could potentially blame for just releasing some gas every once in a while."
Elizabeth Pagliacolo, a magazine editor from Toronto, has been stuck in Milan since last weekend.
In Italy on business, Pagliacolo has the advantage of being able to stay with family while she waits to catch a flight home to Canada.
But she has grown frustrated with the lack of information that is available to people waiting to get back home. Whether it's the airport or her home government in Canada, Pagliacolo said she and her fellow travellers feel like they are being left in the dark.
"I don't really blame anyone because it's just a random natural disaster and nobody really knows when it's going to abate, but at the same time, the information has been really shoddy, even from the press," Pagliacolo told CTV's Canada AM during a telephone interview on Tuesday morning.
"So, it's kind of like, everybody just goes to the airport every day to find out what's going on."
The stress of living in limbo
Mitchell Lapchuk, 17, said he is fed up with the fact that the Canadian government has not offered to bring its stranded citizens home through other means.
The Saskatchewan teenager contacted CTV.ca from England where he has been stranded with his grandfather since the weekend.
He needs to get back home so he can finish up his Grade 12 year at Greenall High School in Balgonie, Sask., about 40 kilometres outside of Regina.
Lapchuk said he wanted to raise the issue of what is happening to other Canadians who are running out of money during their extended stay overseas.
He said he had met several people who are running out of options, including a backpacker who can't afford to stay in a hostel endlessly at the end of her trip and many people who have found London hotel prices too costly for a prolonged stay.
But after visiting the Canadian consulate in London, Lapchuk said he and dozens of other Canadians were told they are on their own as they wait out the situation.
"There are people here that are frustrated, angry, and not in good health," Lapchuk said in his initial email, describing the situation.
"The stress of not being able to get home is strong, but now the government is telling us that we have to find our own way home."
While Lapchuk and his grandfather are fortunate to have friends to stay with while they wait for the transportation problems to be cleared up in England, they are concerned about the people they have met.
He also said being stranded in England is a more stressful situation than people back home may realize.
"You never really know what is happening," Lapchuk said by telephone, noting that the uncertainty has caused him stomach pain and has left him and his grandfather in limbo.
"The only thing that I'd like to do right now is go home," he said.
In an email sent Tuesday evening to CTV.ca, Lapchuk said he and his grandfather have decided to travel by train and ferry to Amsterdam, where they had originally been scheduled to arrive on a connecting flight.
With files from The Associated Press
- Are you stranded overseas, unable to get home as a result of the ash cloud? Post your story in the Comments section and let us know how the travel difficulties are affecting you.