Flight Memo: Volcanic ash across Europe

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The BBC's volcanic ash map on Tuesday, April 20, 2010.
The BBC's volcanic ash map on Tuesday, April 20, 2010.

At first, the very idea that a plume of volcanic ash could force the closure of airspace seemed ludicrous. Until a few days ago, clearly, I knew nothing about the power of volcanic ash. Volcanoes of the world, hear this: I and millions of others stand corrected, now and forever. Never again will we doubt your power to wreak serious and debilitating havoc.

Last week, in the wake of the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, first the countries of northern and western Europe closed their airports. And then country after country to the south and east followed suit. The whole thing proceeded as if by incredibly rapid viral transmission. Very quickly all sorts of relatively arcane volcano terminology began to crop up on television news programs in Europe.

The ash arrives in Romania and Moldova

For days I monitored the expanding shade of ash across the BBC’s map of Europe. Then on Saturday morning, I awoke to learn from an employee at our hotel in Gura Humorului, Romania that Romania and Moldova had closed their airports. Suddenly it seemed likely that I too would be directly affected by the air travel stoppage that had come to paralyze Europe.

The lack of regular updates by trusted sources became a source of frustration. Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, has been updating their volcanic ash cloud maps far too infrequently. And then there are many publications listing European countries with full or partial airspace closures that have been omitting Moldova from their tabulations altogether, despite the fact that the Chisinau airport has been closed for days.

Taking flight today?

Today I’m scheduled to fly from Chisinau to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. As of this moment, very early on Tuesday morning in Chisinau, my flight is scheduled to take off as planned around noon.

My mother—my traveling companion for the past week-and-a-half—is supposed to be Milan-bound on Meridiana at noon tomorrow. Her flight has been canceled outright. We’ve spent many of the last few hours sketching out contingency plans for her. Happily, she’s on vacation and can take the time to make her way south and west.

About the author

Alex Robertson Textor

About the author: Alex Robertson Textor is a London-based travel writer and editor. He has written for Rough Guides, the New York Times, and Public Books, among other publications; he also guided the tablet magazine Travel by Handstand to two SATW Foundation Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards. With Pam Mandel, he writes copy and generates ideas as White Shoe Travel Content. He is on Twitter as @textorian and maintains his own blog, www.textorian.com.

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One thought on “Flight Memo: Volcanic ash across Europe”

  1. Pingback: Flight Memo: Chisinau International Airport | Budget Travel Tips – EuroCheapo

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