Europe Economy

Stranded in Europe: News Crew Waits for Clear Skies

Brian A. Shactman |CNBC Reporter
Vienna Terminal
Photo: Jeff Pohlman

Perhaps, you’ve been mystified, like me and the CNBC crew stranded here in Vienna, by how a big cloud now covering much of Europe has brought us back to the Stone Age, travel-wise.

I’m exaggerating, of course. But when you think about it, this situation doesn’t make sense, right? Can a cloud really be that much of a problem? It’s 2010, right? Why won’t it blow through? Why can’t we just fly above it?

These are some of the questions we've pondered while waiting in Europe for the skies to clear. The Icelandic ash cloud has resulted in my driving from Krakow, Poland, to Vienna and actually considering a flight east through Dubai to get home—by next Tuesday.

No dice. Those flights are fully booked.

Meanwhile, hotel lobbies are clogged with travelers waiting, drinking, sharing their tales. We’ve heard about people spending thousands of dollars on a cab to take them to Spain or southern Italy. And then some people aren’t distressed at all: In fact, they view it as a wonderful opportunity for an extended holiday.

Here in Vienna, some travelers are even getting into the spirit of the delay. They are considering participating in the city’s marathon. Now that they can’t make the Boston Marathon, why not settle for 26 miles in Vienna and wiener schnitzel and beer afterward?

Before leaving Poland, where the country is grieving its lost leaders, we interviewed travelers who had no idea what to do next. For the last three days, they’ve been told that the airport might open up that day, only to find out later that perhaps it won't happen for a week.

Brian Shactman
Photo: Jeff Pohlman

It’s so much like a B science-fiction movie that some people back home don't seem to believe it's happening. I swear, I think my wife expects me to pick up milk on the way home from the airport.

Each day, the same questions. Each day, no definitive answers. Is it a folly, like waiting for Godot? No, we’re simply hoping for clear skies—and as soon as possible, please.