KLM AT NAIA RESUMES FLIGHTS TO EUROPE / TORONTO STAR WRITER STRANDED
 


[PHOTO AT LEFT - NAIA at night]

MANILA, APRIL 22, 2010 (STAR) By Rudy Santos - KLM Royal Dutch Airlines resumed operations in Manila yesterday morning after European airspace and many airports were cleared of ash clouds caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

KLM said the airline has a backlog of 60 tons of cargo that were grounded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for more than four days after mainland Europe closed its airports.

 

[Photo at left - Hundreds of passengers flock to the KLM counter at the NAIA after the airline resumed operations yesterday. RUDY SANTOS]

“Our Boeing 777 had to load some 120 tons of fuel as a precautionary measure, not knowing what would happen once they reached Amsterdam, some tons of cargo were sacrificed for the sake of safety,” said Lourdes Reyes of KLM.

Italian couple Ricardo and Angela Mojolie, with their dog “Pinay” in tow, lined up at the KLM counter.

They arrived in Manila seven months ago and said they love the Philippines and might return in the future.

Meanwhile, international carriers at NAIA reported that they lost millions of pesos when exports such as electronics and garments were not able to reach their destinations due to the closure of European airspace since the eruption of a volcano in Iceland last April 14.

Philippine Airport Ground Services Solution (PAGSS) manager Allan Curabo said that they could not estimate how much the airlines may have incurred in lost revenue when their cargo was temporarily stored at four major bonded warehouses, namely Miascor, PAGSS, Philippine Skylander and Cargo House. – With Pia Lee-Brago, James Mananghaya

FROM THE TORONTO STAR

Hume: Volcanic ash has left me stranded Published On Sun Apr 18 2010 

Star columnist stranded in Berlin as pleas to airports, airlines and travel agents prove fruitless

[PHOTO LEFT - Columnist Christopher Hume, left, waits in vain at Berlin's airport for a flight to Toronto. He's told the earliest he can leave is April 23 — maybe. (April 17, 2010) KEVIN MATTHEWS FOR THE TORONTO STAR]

BERLIN–I travelled here last week to have a look at how green Germany has become, but I will have longer than expected to consider my verdict: The volcanic ash will not let me leave.

On the surface, there's nothing to see – no plumes of black smoke darkening the skies over the city. On this beautiful sunny day, thoughts of mountains erupting in Iceland couldn't be further from one's thoughts. Everything seems supremely normal.

But the lack of air traffic is truly remarkable. Berlin's airport is close to the downtown core, so planes are much a fact of life. There are none to be seen now.

The talk here is all about 9/11, except that this time the disruption is likely already worse. Tegel, the bustling Berlin airport that shuttles half a million passengers a month, is completely shut down, as are all other airports in this country and most across Europe.

Phone calls to airlines and travel agents go unanswered; even the Internet fails. In sheer desperation a group of us decide to travel to Tegel to find answers and, more importantly, discover when we could book a flight home.

We needn't have bothered; the fact is, no one has a clue when the skies will return to normal. The next direct flight available home to Toronto arrives on Friday. Instead, the ticket agent books me on a flight to Montreal on Thursday, a nominal booking for a flight that may not happen.

She makes it clear I am lucky to have a ticket at all. Between now and then, she said, anything could happen.

Indeed, it may be getting worse.

News reports are now saying the volcano is spewing more dust into the atmosphere than it was earlier in the week, when it broke its almost 200-year silence.

One of the most obvious results of the disruption is that train stations in Berlin and across Europe are busier than ever. Lineups are ferocious, not to mention endless. Don't even think of trying to find alternative transportation. The high-speed Eurostar trains are sold out, and besides, they don't cross the Atlantic, not yet at least.

So here I am with a whole lot of time on my hands and a suitcase full of dirty clothes. Hotels across Berlin are doing a roaring business. It's true thousands of visits have been cancelled, but the rest of us have no choice but to stay days longer than expected.

Hotel workers are helpful and occasionally even charming – they smile as they tell you that they are very sorry, but there are no rooms available. But please do call again. After much searching I found accommodation in an out-of-the-way part of the city, and must consider myself very lucky.

In the end, of course, there's no choice but to give in and make the best of the situation. This is Berlin, after all. I'm looking forward to seeing the celebrated bust of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti that has been here since the 19th century. I think I'll browse Berlin's Bloor Street, the Kurfurstendamm; check out Norman Foster's dome design of the Reichstag; rent one of the thousands of bicycles available for tourists. There are worse places in the world to be stuck.

As frustrating as things may be, perhaps it's good to be reminded that our much abused planet Earth is still in control. I just wish I could be enjoying the suddenly spectacular sunsets from the comfort of home, not Berlin, as green as it may be.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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