UK Sends Warships to Rescue Stranded Travelers

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WASHINGTON -- The ash from last week's Iceland volcano has crippled air travel in Europe for a fifth straight day.

It's the longest delay in air traffic since World War II and matters could get worse as there are reports a second volcano may erupt.

Thousands of Flights Still Grounded

To ease the backlog of passengers stranded in neighboring countries, Britain has dispatched Royal Navy warships across the English Channel and to Spain.

Still, across Europe and at airports around the world, thousands of flights remain grounded, putting the travel plans of passengers from Asia to America on hold.

"Our company had to book a pretty expensive hotel in Hong Kong, which costs around - I don't know - 250 Euros each day," one stranded traveler said. "And we are here with five colleagues for four nights now, so do the math. It's pretty expensive."

Two Boston teens preparing for an ice skating competition in France never imagined their dreams would be dashed because a volcano would make it too dangerous for them to fly.

"It was disappointing to know that something that's right there, we were leaving the next day and it's gone," said Ashley Morelli, a member of Boston's Theater on Ice team.

Australia's Qantas Airlines is the latest carrier to cancel flights to Europe, telling passengers not to bother coming to the airport. The decision is affecting 12.5 thousand passengers.

"Qantas does not believe that we're in a situation now where we could safely fly, and we'll not be considering flying until the European air space is properly opened," Quantas Airlines spokesman David Epstein said.

A Second Volcanic Eruption?

Meteorologists warn the situation is unstable. And in Iceland, the fear is that a second volcano about 12 miles away will follow suit and start erupting as it has in the past.

Shutting down 80 percent of Europe's airspace has already cost the airlines $1 billion.

The aviation industry stands to lose at least $200 million a day and - depending on how long it lasts - one estimate says the delay could cut Europe's economic growth for the year.

"Right now it's a nuisance, a frustration. But as each day passes it takes us closer to the breaking point," said Brent Bowen, head of head of Purdue University's aviation technology department.

As tempers flare, others, like one group of Britons stranded in Texas, are making the most of the situation.

Since they can't make it back home, they decided to bring the UK to the U.S. by serving "high tea."

"It's very difficult to know when we will be able to go back to England," said stranded UK traveler Mary Kirby. "But who cares? One of the girls has actually been offered a job here!"

But for millions of tired and frustrated travelers, all they can do now is sit - and wait.

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