Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 16:24 UK

How can people stranded by the volcanic ash get home?

Passengers at an airport
People are making their way back to the UK from across the world

Many of the travellers stranded overseas because of the flight disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud are trying to find any means possible to get home.

However, as the flight ban has now been lifted, planes have returned to the skies.

And the Foreign Office set up a helpline for those stranded overseas: +44 207 008 0000.


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has allowed ferry companies operating out of Dover to carry 10% more passengers than the usual legal limit, a ruling which expires at the end of the week.

But the extra passengers can only go on ships leaving in fair weather conditions during the day.

SeaFrance, which operates the Calais-Dover service, warns that due to overwhelming demand it will be offering a limited foot passenger service which will be on a first come, first served basis until 2000 BST.

LD Lines advises that throughout the coming days and into the weekend, space is available for foot passengers on both its high speed Norman Arrow ferry service and conventional ferry service between Le Havre and Portsmouth. Both LD Lines and Transmanche Ferries' Dieppe to Newhaven services also have foot passenger space availability over the next few days.

In addition there is car space available on all LD Lines' ferry services with four return sailings daily between Boulogne and Dover; four return sailings daily between Ostend and Ramsgate; and two return sailings daily between Dieppe and Newhaven.

Customers are strongly advised to contact the ferry operator if possible before travelling.

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal: On standby for rescue mission

P&O services between Dover and Calais are currently operating to schedule. It said it could take bookings at the port on a first come, first served basis, and warns space is limited and not guaranteed.

Eurotunnel says it is putting on additional services through the week.

Brittany Ferries has told the BBC it has no space on any Spanish services until 29 April. It urged people not to go to Santander as there were no more spaces on the commercial ferries. Instead it urged foot passengers who wished to sail into Portsmouth to go to the French ports of Caen, Cherbourg, Roscoff and St Malo.

Norfolkline Ferries is running coaches for foot passengers travelling to and from France on Thursday - it is not normally able to carry foot passengers on the Dover-Dunkirk route. These coaches will take customers from the Dover port travel centre across the Channel to Dunkirk on ferries, and leave customers at the Dunkirk railway station. Returning coaches from Dunkirk will disembark customers at the travel centre at the port of Dover.

Condor Ferries, which operates to the Channel Islands, says bookings are very much larger than normal. It has laid on additional sailings.

Cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse picked up about 2,000 British tourists from Bilbao and is taking them to Southampton, where it is due to arrive late on Friday evening.

The MV Hamnavoe , which usually operates a service between Scrabster in Caithness and Stromness in Orkney, has been diverted to Bergen in Norway to pick up stranded travellers. Passengers are due to arrive back in Aberdeen late on Thursday.


Ryanair has released extra routes on Friday from Spain to Birmingham, Dublin, Edinburgh, London Stansted and Liverpool which passengers who have been disrupted due to airspace closures can transfer to. And it has now said it will abide by EU rules and pay for stranded passengers' food and accommodation with suitable receipts.

Thomas Cook has sent rescue flights to Cancun, Heraklion, Sharm el-Sheikh and Lanzarote to pick up stranded passengers. Altogether it is hoping to see the return of 14 flights with 2,500 people on board.

The company that manages flight slots out of Heathrow says about 90% of the normal number of flights passing through the airport will be operating. Airline Co-Ordination Limited says that from Thursday, Heathrow and other UK airports are expected to operate full schedules. There are also plans for a small number of overnight flights to help reduce the backlog.

BMI is increasing its flight schedule out of Heathrow on Thursday, with more than 90% of international flights and 50% of domestic flights due to operate.


There are plans for 150 coaches to be sent over from the UK to Spain later this week and the search is on in Spain and the UK for extra coaches.

Part of map showing flights around cloud

Mr Miliband said the Department for Transport was organising a schedule so coaches would be in place in Madrid to meet long-haul flights as they arrived and transport people to Calais.

But holiday-makers who have been staying in the EU and are in Madrid are being advised to make their own way to the channel ports.

Eurolines will be adding extra coaches but says its services are generally running as normal.

Travel company Low Cost Holidays has also laid on extra coach services from Madrid city centre travelling to London Gatwick.


British travellers hoping to travel by train through France are warned to be aware of the ongoing rail strikes by French rail network SNCF over pay and conditions, although the disputes are winding down.

The strike currently affects the Midi-Pyrenees, Languedoc-Roussillon and Rhone-Alpes services. Some TGV services remain affected in south-east France.

Eurostar says the majority of its trains heading to the UK are sold out until Friday. However extra services are being laid on and it urges people to check the website regularly. It says people should only come to the station if they have a confirmed reservation for travel. It is offering direct services from Brussels and Paris to London for £89.


Royal Navy ships have been sent across the channel to pick up stranded travellers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there was space for people to travel on these vessels.

"We are saying to people, there is capacity available at the ferry ports. If people are trying to get back from Europe, they should use the facilities available," he said.


HMS Albion is a type of assault vessel known as a "Landing Platform Dock Ship" which is designed to deploy large numbers of troops to a location.

It can carry 256 staff or troops plus a further 405 in overload capacity. It arrived in the Spanish port of Santander to rescue 450 stranded service personnel. It also rescued around 280 British nationals and headed for Portsmouth early on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Miliband said HMS Ocean and HMS Ark Royal were not needed at the moment but it was "prudent" to have them on standby.


The US embassy in London has urged the 40,000 Americans believed to be stranded in the UK to monitor media reports and travel websites.

It said if people needed help with medical issues, worsened by the flight disruptions, there was a useful list on the embassy's website .

It said if people needed financial assistance, then to contact family and friends either in the UK or the US.

The Department of State said it was not evacuating its citizens from Europe.

But for those who are stranded and have run out of cash and credit, a limited amount of conditional emergency loans may be available.

For those overseas visitors who are worried about overstaying their visas, the UK Border Agency has said it understands this is an "exceptional circumstance".

It urged people to ensure that they kept any proof that they were planning to leave the UK before their visas expired.

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