Domestic flights resume

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The weekend was marked by more travel chaos and endless stories of  endurance and creativity as Norwegians tried to get home or away. The volcanic cloud that grounded most flights was expected to keep moving south, allowing  domestic flights to resume, at least temporarily.

Smoke and lava are seen as a volcano erupts in Eyjafjallajokul

Aviation agency Avinor said Sunday evening that the outlook was more “promising” than earlier expected, and that more air space could open over most of Norway. That would include Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, which has been closed for the past four days.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and other carriers were ready to start flying again, but not out of Norway. A spokesman for SAS said it could only serve routes in Norway where air space would open up, not south to continental Europe, Ireland or the British Isles, where most airports remained closed.

Some flights were expected to land from overseas, however, including some SAS flights from the US. SAS said it was taking things “one day at a time,” and Avinor cautioned that the volcano could blow again and winds could shift, forcing air space closure.

Avinor could open air space as far south as Bergen on Sunday, with some Norwegian airports suddenly functioning as a remote gateway to the rest of Europe, for overseas passengers hoping to travel on via train or ship.

Beleaguered state railway NSB was working hard to boost capacity and meet demand, and winning praise for a change. It doubled weekend staffing and leased the trains normally used by the Airport Express (Flytog) service, which now is idled. Those trains are being put on routes in Østlandet, from Oslo to Halden, for example, freeing up the carriages normally on those routes for more badly needed long-distance service.

Stena Line, Color Line and DFDS, which run passenger ferries to Denmark and Germany, were swamped and trying to accommodate as many passengers as possible. That included selling mattress space in conference rooms on board the vessels.

Many companies were hit hard by the disruption in air travel. Statoil, for example, has employees stuck all over the world. There were endless stories of how stranded travelers were coping.

Sonja Alice Steen of Vesterålen in northern Norway was in Brussels when the airports closed and had to get home, so she rented a car and drove all night. A group of young men heading for the alps hired a maxi-taxi to drive them instead. Hotel owner Petter Stordalen was celebrating his own bachelor party at Åre in Sweden and managed to get there by bus and train.

Newspaper Aftenposten’s political editor, Harald Stanghelle, was in Amsterdam when the airports closed and wrote that he hitched a ride on a semi-trailer heading for Norway with a load of tulips.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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