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Some European Airports Open

April 20, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox

Amid reports that the ash plume that has clogged Europe's airspace for the past five days might be getting worse, airlines are—quite literally—throwing caution to the wind and taking to the skies again.

According to ABC News, three KLM passenger planes reportedly left Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on Monday evening during daylight under visual flight rules bound for New York, Dubai and Shanghai. The German flag-carrier Lufthansa said it would bring 50 planeloads of passengers home.

Not every airline was ready to be airborne again, however. The stronger ash plume is reportedly making the air over the UK even more dangerous for jet airlines, and much of England's airports remain closed. Scotland, however, seems to be open for business, but with limited flights.

The New York Times has a list of Europe's airports and their current status.

Meanwhile, European travelers are getting around by train or by water. According to Lloyd's List (a news and information service for the global shipping industry), the UK Department for Transport is allowing Dover ferry operators to carry passengers in numbers that would normally be illegal under rules against overloading, in a bid to repatriate travelers stranded by the aviation crisis.

French authorities are understood to have made similar provisions for French concerns: SeaFrance confirmed that it had taken advantage of the one-off bilateral derogation, which expires at the end of the week, although P&O Ferries said yesterday that it would not do so, largely because of constraints on the availability of seafarers with the right skills in the off-peak period.

Under the deal, all voyages must be completed in daylight and in favorable weather and must take on additional crew if needed for passenger control, he stressed. Moreover, modern vessels typically have lifeboat capacity above the permissible minimum.

Dan Sullivan, CEO of Collette Vacations, has posted a wryly humorous blog about the situation on the agency's website, The blog does tend to put things into perspective for travelers who have had their European vacations scuttled by Mother Nature: "No matter what, remember the most important thing; you are home, safe, and able to choose what to do on a future date."

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