Wednesday 20 September 2017

Chaos across continent a royal mess for high-fliers

Valentine Low

AS aircraft remained grounded all over Europe yesterday, the resulting chaos was nothing if not democratic. Kings, bankers, presidents, schoolchildren, comedy stars, all found their schedules thrown into disarray.

But in the midst of the confusion, some found the resources to overcome their problems, whether it was running their country by iPad or taking a taxi across most of northern Europe.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark found her 70th birthday celebrations last night missing some key guests after the Duke of Edinburgh and the King and Queen of Spain were forced to cancel. Other royals, including those from Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, turned up late after they switched to road or rail travel.

But changing travel plans can be expensive, as John Cleese found. Stranded in Norway, the 'Monty Python' star paid €3,800 for a taxi from Oslo to Brussels.

"We checked every option, but there were no boats and no train tickets available," he said. "That's when my fabulous assistant determined the easiest thing would be to take a taxi."

He was not the only one to run up a large fare. Daniel Oakes (37) was due to come home from a business trip to Copenhagen when his flight was cancelled.

"There were no car rentals, no ferries from Copenhagen to Norfolk, they were all full, there were no trains," he said.

He estimated that his journey -- a ferry to Hamburg, taxi to Brussels, and then the Eurostar home -- would take about 24 hours and cost between €2,300 and €3,400.

"It's just one of those things, it's actually quite fun," said Mr Oakes, a banker.

For others a taxi was not an option. President Stoltenberg of Norway, returning from President Obama's nuclear security summit, was stuck in New York. He was said to be running government "from his iPad".

Mr Obama could also be prevented from flying across the Atlantic, meaning that he would miss the funeral of Lech Kaczynski, the late Polish President, in Krakow tomorrow.

Britain's Prince of Wales, who is representing Queen Elizabeth, would have the same problem if aircraft are still grounded.

Jacek Sasin, a Polish presidential aide, said: "The will of the family is that in no circumstances should the date of the funeral ceremonies be changed, and that they should go ahead."

Generosity

Amid the chaos, tales of generosity emerged. A group of schoolgirls stranded at a Dutch airport sailed back to Britain after a lottery winner travelling with them helped out.

Former soldier Tony Dugard, who won a share of £2.2m (€2.5m) in July as part of a syndicate of eight from the Corus steelworks in Scunthorpe, England, was returning from an expedition to Borneo with a school party from Grimsby when they were stranded at Amsterdam airport.

After the pupils and teachers contributed £300 for a minibus ride to Rotterdam, Mr Dugard ( 45) picked up the £550 bill for the ferry crossing to Hull. "It was nice to be able to help," he said.

Inevitably, some people lost their tempers, especially at airports.

"There was one man who was so mad that they were about to arrest him. No one tells you anything. It's madness," said Ann Ward, stuck in Barcelona.

Mrs Ward (48), from Derry, added: "I was due to go back to work on Sunday. This has ruined our holiday." (©The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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