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KLM delays passengers for 10 days

As you are probably aware, a big cloud of volcanic ash is disrupting air traffic in big parts of Europe. Just now a former Spil Games Asia colleague (who now works at Spil Games in Hilversum) gave me a call. He is on holiday in China and planned to fly back to Amsterdam today. But because of the ash cloud there are no flights to Europe, so he had to rebook his ticket. And guess what: the earliest plane KLM can put him on will leave in 10 days time! He told me he first thought he misunderstood what KLM was telling him, but all earlier flights are fully booked and they could not rebook him on other airlines either (I assume they are also fully booked).

I understand that the airline is losing tons of money because of this extraordinary situation, but leaving stranded passengers for 10 days in Beijing seems a bit too much to me. My colleague asked and was told that the KLM does not want to add additional flights to fly passengers back to Europe.

I don’t know yet how other airlines handle this situation, please let me know in the comments if you have information on this. They should face the same problem, but I wonder if they also let their passengers figure it out themselves and just tell them wait for 10 days… You may as well take the Trans-Siberian train back, that should be faster.

On Tuesday I plan to fly to Amsterdam myself – if the ash cloud has disappeared of course. I plan to ask the staff on board about this as well: Is the KLM really not able to find a better solution for its customers?

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  1. No worries Joop, only when the original flight is canceled KLM lets you wait 10 days. I assume ash cloud should be gone in 1-2 days.
    Update: After doing some more research I would not be surprised it this might take at least several more days to clear. So your sister may have a problem to travel to China & I may not be able to fly to Holland.

  2. I read on the BBC website that no airline wants to charter extra flights, that would just be too costly.

    I’m just happy that I will leave next week Saturday – at least when there is not another eruption in the meantime. I just checked on the KLM website and we’re quite lucky that we confirmed our seats on Monday. When I tried to look at our seats just now, the page wouldn’t load anymore.

    Waiting 10 days seems a bit too long, but I also understand that it’s a logistical nightmare to get everything running again. I assume it will take at least a couple of days before everything is operating normally. You can just imagine the mess with airplanes and crews in wrong locations. So even though they might start to fly again Sunday, I’m not sure if your flight on Tuesday will fly normally. Hope for the best for all of us! 🙂

  3. Thijs, I actually start wondering if the airlines know more than they are telling us. I would not be surprised if there won’t be any flights for the next couple of days in Europe. The volcano is still erupting, if that ash flies to Europe as well it will be at least another week before the air will be clean. Hope I’m wrong, but I am mentally prepared to postpone my trip to Europe next week.

  4. I hope it will not take more than a week to clear up, but right now the prospects are not very good yet (dry weather over Iceland, wind in the direction of mainland Europe, volcano still erupting, scientists talking about the possibility of weeks…).

    We’re finally getting married and for the first time in 3 years we will fly back to the Netherlands. This is not the kind of news we are waiting for, but I’m still quite confident… so far… sort of 🙂

  5. Marc, I was stranded in Pudong airport until 5 am Saturday morning! My night Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was also cancelled and they told us to rebook to the next available flight to Europe. Just like your friend, the next available flight to Europe will only be on 28th April. So I decided to cancel my trip. Lufthansa has written in their website that if passenger decides to cancel trip, then the ticket will be fully refunded (of course to the class that you’ve paid).

    Another friend of mine was supposed to fly with British Airways last Thursday and was also cancelled. The same like KLM and Lufthansa, BA only asked the passenger to rebook to next available flight.

    The situation today (Sunday, 10:50 am China Time), all German airport will be closed until 2 pm German time (18th April), pending development of the weather in Europe.

  6. My husband and I were leaving with KLM on Sunday, 18 April at 23.20. We have rebooked our cancelled flight and are leaving on 1 May now! We are going to try everything to get home sooner but that’s the best they could do, they said. If we were prepared to pay about 2900 euros extra for business class seats we could leave on the 25th. We suppose KLM hasn’t really thought or talked this problem out because this is pretty unbelievable. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

  7. I know that Transavia is not accepting any new bookings till the end of this week in order to have enough capacity to return stranded passengers and fly all passengers with existing tickets.

  8. Congratulations Marc, you are one lucky guy to get the first (?) flight out of Shanghai! It looks my flight Saturday night from HK will also be normal.

  9. The situation is bad, and i am one of those whose product will not be finished in time coz a key component got stuck in Europe. but I could not help myself wondering, when i saw on CNN how they described a 600km ride of one football team as “epic journey” or “tedious”, what the hell is a problem about spending 6-7 hrs in a luxurious coach? or second, imagine this happens in China: IMMEDIATELY, long lines of all kinds of vehicles would queue in front of airport halls, offering rides to another cities. maybe they only did not show this in TV and maybe that was exactly what was happening all time, but this is where i am almost sure that Chinese enterpreneurship would immediately fill the gap with offering supply to this sudden demand…

  10. It is crazy how fragile our air transportation system is. Who would can believe that a volcanic ash cloud could snarl air traffic the way that is has!