Now arriving at BWI … at long last

Aircraft immediately scheduled to make a return flight

April 21, 2010|By Jessica Anderson and Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

Gaye and Frank Novak had been on call since last Thursday.

Their 25-year-old daughter, Jenna, had been scheduled to arrive on a British Airways flight from London to Baltimore that day. But like thousands of others, she'd been out of luck since volcanic ash grounded airliners across Europe, stranding passengers and keeping travel on that continent confined to land.

"We've just been on pins and needles waiting to drop everything to come get her," said Gaye Novak of Bel Air.

Finally, on Wednesday night, she arrived. Jenna Novak was one of about 135 passengers on the 7:11 p.m. flight from Heathrow, the first to land at BWI since the disruption in air travel.

Jenna Novak said she had to reschedule her flight three times and spent more than an hour on the phone with the airline each time.

"I couldn't believe it at first," she said.

Luckily for her, she was able to stay with her boyfriend's parents in London for the six days she was stranded. Many others had to pay for hotel rooms.

Venkat and Vanaja Ramulu were supposed to be on their way to visit their children and grandchildren in Baltimore last week. Instead, the couple, who live in Yorkshire, a few hundred miles north of London, were paying for a hotel room in London, waiting to see if they'd be able to make it in time for grandson Theo's 5th birthday party.

"We nearly canceled," Venkat Ramulu said. "We lost six days of vacation. … It took three tries to schedule a flight."

Their son-in-law, Kristian Eskesen, was waiting at the airport for their arrival. He said his son Theo's party is scheduled for Friday.

"He's going to be very pleased," Eskesen said. "He wanted to come to the airport."

The sold-out Boeing 767 landed at the international terminal of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport after an eight-hour trans-Atlantic jaunt that airline officials said couldn't come soon enough for many of its detained customers.

"It's booked to the top," said British Airways spokesman John Lampl. "It's a lot of people trying to get home — both ways."

Lampl said he has a friend who was slated to begin a new job in London two days ago but, instead, has been crashing in his spare bedroom in New York since. "I expect there'll be 1,000 anecdotal stories like that," he said.

The aircraft was scheduled to return to London 9:05 p.m. Wednesday, carrying another 189 passengers. Lampl said British Airways has put thousands of its stranded passengers in hotels and given out food vouchers.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland last week spurred the cancelation of tens of thousands of flights. Some estimates have calculated losses to airlines of at least $1.7 billion.

Scientists believe that because the volcano was below a glacial ice cap, the magma was cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that could damage plane engines.

The majority of the nearly 30,000 flights at European airports were operating by Wednesday morning.

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