FACTBOX-Ash cloud fallout hits travelers in Americas

Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:10pm EDT

April 19 (Reuters) - The ash cloud from Iceland's erupting volcano stranded businessmen and vacationers in the Americas for a fifth day on Monday and left many scrambling to map out new routes home before their finances run out.

Disrupted air travel between Europe and the Americas kept runners from reaching the Boston marathon and musicians from playing at the Coachella festival in California.

Hoteliers and resorts tried to help ease the cost of the extended stay. Many guests relaxed and enjoyed the extra time off, while others fretted and kept a wary eye on the skies.

Following are some of their stories:

* German engineering student Benedikt Auer spent the night on the floor of the Mexico City airport and was desperate to get home to hand in a signed copy of thesis by Friday or face having to repeat a five-month semester.

"We are talking about Germany," he said. "You have to be on time. It's a nightmare."

* British businessman Chris Thomas, trying to get home from Los Angeles since Thursday, was determined to get back to the United Kingdom. He first flew to Mexico City. From there he aimed to fly to Madrid and spend $2,000 to rent a car for the 14-hour drive to Paris. He was booked on the Eurostar to London and then planned to drive another four hours to Wales.

"It's all a bit crazy but you have to err on the side of caution," Thomas said. "Nobody wants to be on the first plane to go down in a volcanic cloud."

* Several European bands failed to make it for the three-day annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the California desert over the weekend because of flight cancellations causes by the volcanic ash.

Bad Lieutenant, The Cribs, Frightened Rabbit, Delphic and Gary Numan were grounded in Europe, organizers of the indie music festival said. British band The Cribs even took a 16 hour car ride from the UK to Amsterdam in a failed bid to find a flight to southern California.

"I can't tell you how disappointed we all are," Gary Numan Tweeted on Sunday.

* Porter Airlines Inc, a small regional Canadian airline, canceled its first flight out of St John's, Newfoundland, on Monday morning as a precautionary measure due to forecasts that volcanic ash could spread to Canada's east coast.

"Nothing really materialized of note so we are moving ahead now (with our normal flight schedule)," Porter spokesman Brad Cicero said.

WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada's second biggest carrier, said its flights to Atlantic Canada were proceeding normally.

* Officials at the Boston marathon -- the oldest and arguably most prestigious marathon -- estimated that 400 to 500 entrants from Europe did not make it to Monday's Patriot's Day race because of volcano-related flight cancellations.

Special allowances were made for any stragglers who made it into the country last night, but only a few actually made it. One potential contender withdrew because of flight cancellations: Moroccan Olympian Abdellah Falil.

* U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scrapped a planned visit to Finland this week because of the volcanic ash. "We regret that, given the atmospherics, she will not be able to travel to Finland," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing.

Crowley said Clinton was still scheduled to travel to Estonia later in the week for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, provided it is not delayed.

* A U.S. team traveling to Russia to discuss adoption policies made it as far as Toronto but had to return home after failing to secure onward flights to Moscow, the State Department spokesman said.

The meetings, which come after Russia halted some adoptions to U.S. families after an American women sent her adopted son back to Russia alone on a plane with a note disowning him, will be rescheduled, Crowley said.

* New York was feeling a pinch from the European flight cancellations. A spokeswoman for NYC & Company, the city's marketing arm, said New York typically gets about 12,000 visitors from Europe each day in April and they spend about $3 million per day.

"It's not a slow month," the spokeswoman said.

NYC & Company said 37 hotels and three airport transportation providers were offering 15 percent discounts to travelers who had to extend their New York stays because of the volcanic eruptions.

* Some Florida entertainment parks sought to brighten the gloom of Europe-bound travellers stranded by the ash cloud. Sea World Parks & Entertainment offered free one-day admission to any United Kingdom, Irish or continental European tourist stranded in Florida due to the interruption in international air travel caused by the volcanic ash.

* A spokesman for the airport in St John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, the closest international airport to Iceland in North America, said the ash cloud had not affected air traffic, although flights had been delayed due to fog.

"Up to this point there is no indication that the airspace will be affected (due to the ash cloud)," said Randy Mahon.

The Juno Awards, which honor the best in Canadian music, took place in St John's on Sunday, and news that the ash cloud was headed toward the maritime island sent A-listers like crooner Michael Buble and teen heart-throb Justin Bieber, scrambling to make flights before any air space closures.

* A handful of people anxious for a flight home slept on the floor by the KLM-Air France-Delta counter in Mexico City airport in the hope of spotting airline staff.

"It's crazy, everything is crazy, nobody can tell us anything, said Swedish welder Thomas Jakobsson, 47, who was visibly upset, unable to find anyone from KLM and up all night trying to figure out how to get to Scandinavia.

* Israeli backpacker Raz Zuaretz, who was due to fly home via Amsterdam, had run out of money after being stranded in Mexico City for two nights. "I don't have any left and I am so tired. They just told me there is nothing to do, just wait in Mexico City," said the 21-year-old student.

* Around 800 German tourists were waiting on news of the flight ban in the Mexican beach town of Puerto Morelos. "The weather is good and the guests are getting two or three days more holidays, so they are calm and we're doing what we can so they can keep enjoying their stay," said Ernesto Munoz, head of the hotels association in Puerto Morelos.

* A group of about 20 French people were mostly happy about the unexpected vacation extension, several of them breaking into an impromptu samba dance on Monday morning near their hotel in the Copacabana beach area of Rio de Janeiro. Their flight had been due to leave on Saturday.

"Every day they keep telling us our flight may be tomorrow. We are enjoying the sun and taking advantage of the beach," said Gina Orlando, a young saleswoman. (Writing by David Alexander in Washington, Reporting by Jason Lange in Mexico City, Jose Cortazar in Cancun, Julia Aquino in Rio de Janeiro, Nicole Mordant in Vancouver, John McCrank in Toronto, Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles, Joan Gralla and Walden Siew in New York, and Ros Krazny in Boston, Editing by Sandra Maler)