THAI Airways International has increased flights to Rome and Madrid to assist passengers stranded by the closure of most European airports due to the ashfall.
The airline’s executive board agreed yesterday (April 18, 2010) to help about 15,000 THAI passengers affected by the cancellation of flights since last week. According to THAI president, Piyasvasti Amranand, half of that figure are grounded at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.
THAI flies to 13 European cities, but now could only land at four airports because of the ash plume. These are Rome, Madrid, Athens and Moscow.
• Inbound and outbound flights between Bangkok and Rome will be increased from four to 11 flights a week, starting today.
• Inbound and outbound flights between Bangkok and Madrid will be increased from three to seven flights a week, starting on Friday.
• Flights between Bangkok and Athens as well as Bangkok and Moscow will continue three times weekly.
On the first day of cancellations, THAI handled the accommodation costs for affected customers. Following that, the airline negotiated with hotels for special rates for their customers and tried to find them ways to fly on other routes that were still operating normally. The B1 floor of Suvarnabhumi passenger terminal building was allocated for stranded travellers waiting to leave the Kingdom. These were equipped with internet connections, refreshments and blankets, all free of charge.
Passengers can contact THAI’s 24-hour hot line at 66 2 356 1111.
Meanwhile, other airlines were considering their options. At press time, Singapore Airlines spokesperson Nicholas Ionedes said that they were likewise looking at adding extra flights, but were quick to stress: “the situation remains very fluid”. He said it was not so easy to mount new flights to the still functioning airports “because of restrictions”.
From yesterday until April 20, Cathay Pacific plans to use a Boeing B747-400, instead of the usual Airbus A340, for the Hongkong-Rome service. This may continue depending on demand.
Qantas has been offering passengers – about 10,000 of them – stranded at Asian ports flights back to Australia. About 1,000 passengers are stranded in Singapore, which the carrier uses as a hub for its European flights, with an added 400 in Bangkok and Hongkong. As per its latest bulletin, the London-Hongkong flight on April 20 and Hongkong-London flight on April 21 have been cancelled with passengers booked on them transferred to the next available service or issued a refund.
A Japan Airlines (JAL) spokesperson said: “(Adding extra flights) was a possibility depending on the situation.” Passengers holding tickets on JAL for travel between April 16 to 23, 2010 who have yet to start their journey, may have their tickets refunded or dates changed at no fee regardless of their fare type/conditions. Passengers with partially used tickets can change to other available Japan-Europe JAL flights within the same booking class if they travel before April 30.
Hong Kong International Airport has had its share of stranded travellers. Said a spokesperson of the Airport Authority of Hong Kong: “We maintain close contact with the airlines and offer assistance to affected passengers as and when necessary. For example, we have been giving out bottled water and blankets to passengers in need in the past few days”.
Margie T Logarta