Two weeks or more is what airlines estimate will take to clear the backlog of stranded passengers caused by the Iceland volcano (or “E-15” as some people have called it due to the 15 letters in its name).
Cathay Pacific operated extra flights yesterday and did so again today. It plans to mount two more flights to the regular Hongkong-Amsterdam schedule tomorrow and Sunday.
Singapore Airlines has increased services for Singapore-Manchester return, Singapore-Frankfurt return, Singapore-Paris return, Singapore-Zurich return, and mounted an additional Amsterdam-Singapore flight. Between today and April 28, 2010, the daily Singapore-London return is utilising a larger Airbus A380 aircraft from the regular Boeing B777-300ER.
It has arranged for land transportation for London-bound customers on the supplementary Singapore-Manchester services, as the lack of available slots at LHR Airport has made it difficult to provide additional flights directly to London. Cancellation and change fees for confirmed tickets to and from Europe issued p to and including April 15 will be waived. (The same conditions apply to KirsFlyer redemption tickets.)
THAI Airways has moved its B747-400s and A340-600 that fly to Tokyo and Australia respectively from these routes to fly extra services to Europe. According to THAI officials, there were about 20,000 THAI customers stuck on either side as of yesterday. They admitted regional routes would suffer in the short run but stressed the priority was to get all the stranded home by the end April at the latest. The airline was looking at reducing the ground time of aircraft to speed up the turnaround time.
Qantas has also beefed up its regular schedule with supplementary services between Australia and Europe via its Singapore hub. It has given priority to customers with serious medical conditions, those awaiting operations and those with a funeral or a significant family event to attend. Elderly travellers and families with infants and young children will also be accommodated first.
All airlines were unanimous in urging passengers who are able to defer their travel for another few months to do so. Qantas is offering a full refund to those who elect to do so.
Margie T Logarta