Stranded travellers wait for flights to resume

Canadians stranded overseas waited anxiously Friday for flights to resume after a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupted air travel between Europe and North America.

Troop deployment to Afghanistan delayed after volcanic eruption in Iceland

There are two flights to Europe a day from the Ottawa International Airport, but many Ottawa residents also fly across the Atlantic via other cities. ((Steve Fischer/CBC))

Canadians stranded overseas waited anxiously Friday for flights to resume after a volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupted air travel between Europe and North America.

Most flights in and out of northern Europe were cancelled for the second day in a row because of the ash cloud from the volcano, which has shut down air travel by limiting visibility and having the potential to damage airplane engines.

Canadian hockey player Doug MacIver, 29, was passing time at London's Gatwick airport for the second day in a row Friday.

MacIver, who played junior hockey for teams in Belleville, Sarnia and Kingston, Ont., before moving on to professional leagues in the U.S. and Europe, had just completed a season with the Peterborough Phantoms in the U.K.

He is returning home to Winnipeg for the summer.

"I actually turned the keys in to my apartment yesterday morning before I left, so I don't have an apartment anymore … that's another frustrating part of it," said MacIver, who was left scrambling for a place to stay Thursday night, along with hundreds of other stranded passengers.

London hotels full

No hotel rooms are left anywhere near the airport, he said, and trains to other cities were also booked solid. Nor was his airline, Thomas Cook Airlines, covering any expenses. Fortunately, one of his teammates was getting a hotel room and food covered by British Airways.

"So he got one of the last few hotel rooms and I have been able to crash on his floor," he said.

On Friday, MacIver got hopeful news that his flight was rescheduled, but that was cancelled as well.

"They tell us to check the websites every three to six hours," he said.

It wasn't the first time MacIver has been stranded because of the forces of nature. He flew into New Orleans 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

He "was stuck down there for almost two weeks before Air Canada flew us out of Houston," he said in an earlier email. "This stuff seems to follow me."

Troops delayed

The cancellation of flights headed toward Europe continues to delay the deployment of around 200 troops from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa to Afghanistan.

Lt. Dennis Power confirmed the troops were supposed to leave Thursday and connect through Europe, but were unable to do so as a result of the ash cloud.

"It's a minor inconvenience to us," he said, adding that similar delays occur often in the winter because of snowstorms, and there is flexibility built into Canadian Forces operations so they aren't affected.

Power said there is a possibility the troops could leave Friday or over the weekend.

'I'm going to have to go through this all again'

Other travellers heading to Europe from eastern Ontario were also waiting Friday.

Oona Woods had been about to take her daughters to London when she learned their flight was cancelled. ((Steve Fischer/CBC))

Oona Woods had been planning to take her daughters Lucy and Ruby to London when she heard their flight was cancelled Thursday.

She had worked hard to organize activities to occupy the girls during the flight.

"I'm going to have to go through this all again," she said.

There are two flights to Europe each day from the Ottawa International Airport, but many people in the region also fly to Europe indirectly by connecting through other cities like Toronto or Montreal.

Inder Handa, an Ottawa travel agent, found out his own flight to Frankfurt was cancelled when he arrived at the Ottawa airport. His wife is now stranded in Asia, waiting for flights to resume so she can return to Canada.

The air traffic control body Eurocontrol expected the ash to continue to affect flights until at least Saturday morning.

Handa suggested the disruption to air travel could continue long after the ash subsides, when the backlog of stranded passengers will scramble to resume their journeys.