Rescue operations launched to bring customers home

Monarch has arranged a rescue flight to take stranded tourists from Palma to Madrid today, while ferries and Eurostar have added extra capacity to cope with the ongoing ash crisis.

Coaches will be waiting to transfer passengers back from Madrid to the UK via Calais. Monarch passengers that have been stranded in Majorca the longest have been contacted via text message with details of the flight.

Monarch Airlines managing director Tim Jeans said: “The ongoing restriction of aircraft movements over the UK and Northern Europe is resulting in hundreds of thousands of customers being stranded around the world. At Monarch we are endeavouring to do everything we can to assist our customers and the rescue flight from Palma tomorrow is evidence of this.

“With almost 8,000 Monarch passengers currently stranded on the Spanish Islands with no alternative means of transport back to the UK, it is important that we mobilise this flight and schedule additional rescue flights to operate as quickly as we can over the coming days”.

Ferry company P&O has boosted its capacity to help stranded passengers – though the advice is to check availability before leaving home.

The HM Maritime and Coastguard Agency have granted exemptions to all ferries travelling from Dover to Calais to carry an extra 10% of passengers.

A spokeswoman for the P&O ferry company said: “At Dover, we do 32 round-trips a day and we have pulled in staff to increase passenger capacity, but we have no extra ships.”

Eurostar is operating an extra six trains today. Between last Thursday and Sunday an estimated 50,000 people travelled by Eurostar, up 30% on normal passenger numbers.

Meanwhile,  no-frills carrier Ryanir has announced it will not be flying until Wednesday at 1pm at the earliest.

Ryanair said it had taken this decision in order to allow passengers to apply for a full refund or rebook onto flights later this week, when it hopes that improved weather conditions may allow normal flight schedules to resume.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said: “This spreading cloud of volcanic ash is unprecedented in Ryanair’s experience, and we are continuing to work around the clock to minimise its effects on our schedules and passengers. Ryanair’s flights in Spain, Southern Italy and Northern Africa will continue to operate Southbound and domestic routes.”

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