'Bedlam' as flight ban sparks ferry rush
DESPERATE air passengers flocked to ferry ports in their thousands after flights at Irish airports were grounded in the wake of the Icelandic volcano eruption.
Irish Ferries reported its busiest day in its 30-year history yesterday.
Stena Line said it was also exceptionally busy as airline passengers scrambled to get off the island.
Both ferry companies were bracing themselves last night for more long queues at the ferry terminals today as thousands of stranded passengers sought alternative transport across the Irish Sea.
Irish Ferries reported a 300-fold increase in telephone reservations and online bookings for its crossings from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales.
"Our sales manager described the place as bedlam," Irish Ferries spokesman Don Hall told the Irish Independent.
"The website didn't crash but it was very slow due to the huge demand."
Yesterday's 800-capacity sailing from Dublin to Holyhead at 2.30pm was booked out by noon as air passengers jostled to secure a crossing.
Last night's return sailing from Holyhead to Dublin at 7pm was also fully booked out as Irish-bound passengers who were grounded at UK airports sought alternative means to cross the sea.
Many airline passengers frantically booked their reservations on their mobile phones or via their Blackberries as they raced to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ports in taxis from the airport yesterday morning.
There is still some remaining space on sailings today, but passengers are advised to book as soon as possible to secure a seat.
Stena Line also reported massive numbers of people seeking bookings on its round-trip crossings between Dublin and Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead, between Belfast and Stranraer, Scotland, and between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales.
"It's been an unprecedented demand on such short notice," spokesman Eamonn Hewitt told the Irish Independent.
Both of its 1.15pm fast-ferry crossings from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead and its 4pm Dublin to Holyhead crossing were fully booked, as was the 9.15pm crossing from Dublin to Holyhead.
Even the graveyard crossing from Holyhead to Dublin at 2.30 this morning was nearing capacity last night, Mr Hewitt said.
Although there is still capacity left on most crossings today, he warned that there was not only limited space for foot passengers, but there were restrictions on the number of passengers that could be accommodated as rail passengers once they crossed the sea.