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Thousand of Swedish charter tourists stranded

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Thousand of Swedish charter tourists stranded
Lottie Knutson
10:15 CEST+02:00
At least 10,000 Swedish charter travellers have been stranded in far-flung destinations with no hope of returning home until Sunday at the earliest as a cloud of volcanic ash paralyses air traffic across Europe.

Tour operator Fritidsresor said it was seeking alternative modes of transport to bring its customers back to Sweden after a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland forced airspace closures across much of Europe, with Scandinavia especially hard hit.

"Fritidsresor alone has 4,000 passengers who are stranded, and it's fairly evenly spread among the other travel operators," said Fritidsresor's communications director Lottie Knutson.

"Nor is there any sign of the situation improving over the weekend. The number of people stranded is growing day by day."

She added that the figure of 10,000 stranded charter tourists was a rough estimate based on the market share held by the respective Swedish operators.

A number of Fritidsresor's customers travelling home from Thailand are now stuck in Cyprus, while tourists returning from Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, have come no further than Majorca.

"In order to help them we are of course looking at boat transportation. We have also rented and bought almost thirty buses which are standing at the ready, mainly in Athens.

"We're also looking at trying to get flight clearance from Cyprus to Athens, or Trieste in northern Italy. From there we can then take those stranded back to the Nordic region in convoys of buses."

Fritidsresor was also exploring the possibility of flying routes around the section of airspace that had been shut down.

"That's only something a long distance machine can manage," said Knutson.

She stressed however that no firm decisions had yet been taken as to how to bring charter travellers back to Sweden. She predicted that customers would be notified on Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

"No decisions have been made yet but, if required, the actual transportation will not happen until tomorrow [Sunday]. We'll continue to work on the practicalities over the course of the day," said Knutson.

Fritidsresor also calculated that around 10,000 people who had booked charter trips would not now be able to leave Sweden for their destinations.

"This in itself entails a lot of frustration and disappointment, especially since people are aware that trips are cheap now and they won't get the same holiday for the same amount of money in high season."

Knutson said it was difficult to calculate the financial cost for charter operators until the cloud has dispersed and normal service resumes.

"But at a rough estimate it is costing each major tour operator up to around 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) per day."

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