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VOLCANO FLIGHT CHAOS
Swedish website helps stranded travellers
Paul & Helani Mathews

Swedish website helps stranded travellers

Published: 21 Apr 2010 15:19 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Apr 2010 15:19 GMT+02:00

A new blog and Facebook page have been launched by an industrious Ericsson employee in Stockholm to help stranded travellers in Europe get home and encourage them to make the best of their impromptu stopover.

Paul Mathews works for Ericsson in Stockholm and when some US colleagues were left marooned in the Swedish capital amid the ongoing flight chaos, he opened his home to invite them to stay.

"I then wanted to do something for the rest of the people stuck in Stockholm," Mathews told The Local on Wednesday.

This help took the form of a Facebook page to help others in a similar situation to share tips on transport alternatives home. The idea has now grown into a blog "Stranded in Europe and accompanying Facebook page and Paul Mathews reports that the pages are being used in a number of ways.

"Many are stuck and want to find partners to share vehicles and other transport home, or closer to home. But there are others being innovative and asking for tourist sites and other tips for wherever they are," he said, adding that the flight turmoil has created a lot of goodwill among people, often complete strangers.

"It shows people really pulling together. When you are stuck somewhere you tend to be gloomy - I say you can either sit in the airport and complain, or go out an see all those wonderful sights that, say, Paris has to offer," he said.

One such good Samaritan is UK national Suzie Francis who has used the site to welcome those stranded in the Stockholm region to her home near Västerås, around 100 kilometres west of the capital.

"We have travelled many times from the UK and know just what it is like to have a delay of just half an hour when you have three kids in tow, I can't imagine what it would be like to have waited several days," Francis told The Local on Wednesday.

While no one stuck for options at nearby Arlanda or Västerås airports has yet taken the family up on the offer of a free double room, and if needs be a couple of extra beds, the offer stands as Stockholm airports start to reopen for traffic on Wednesday afternoon.

"You might find that people start rushing back to the airports thinking that normal service has been resumed, we are there to help if it has not. My husband has a minibus to come and pick people up if necessary."

"It is human nature to want to help," Suzie Francis said.

As Paul Mathews is employed at Ericsson he was able to use a communication platform at the Swedish firm to enable those stranded without access to the internet to use their phones to post questions and messages on the page. The text messages cost the usual rate but the user is kept up to date with replies for free thanks to the system.

"The initiative is not connected to my employment but I am able to deploy the same technology that we export for external developers," he said.

While Paul Mathews and his wife Helani manage the site, he underlined that it is the users, now numbering more than 120, who keep it moving and make it it useful.

"Many of the users are showing that even if you can't control the situation, you can at least control your own attitude to the situation," he said.

Related links:

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:12 April 22, 2010 by glamelixir
This is what I did, but it costed us 7000kr to return to England, I arrived today and airports reopened.... sucks though.
19:40 April 22, 2010 by PaulHelani
I am Paul Mathews, the creator of the site. The site was created to connect people who are in need with people who can help. I do not create most of the content in facebook. Vast majority are all done by individuals.

I strongly believe in the goodness of people, 99% of the people want to help. Therefore, the facebook page has been fully opened for anyone to post anything or comment on anything. Now there is a remaining 1% who try to profit from the situation, which is quite unfortunate. I periodically monitor the page to delete such scams.

It is quite sad if you had had to pay unreasonable charges. If you can give more information about your experience, and point me to the specific post, I will review and delete.

Thank you for making the site safer.
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