Stranded Flyers Running Out of Cash, Want to Go Home

The thousands of passengers stranded for days by Iceland's erupting volcano are quickly running out of patience, money and even tourist sites to visit.

Expensive hotels, extra meals, and the search for alternative travel options have emptied the wallets of many exhausted travelers who just want to return home. A few hotels have been accused of gouging their trapped guests.

European officials are opening some airspace Tuesday morning, but it still could take days to thin out the backlog of passengers waiting to catch a flight. It still remains unclear who will get on those first planes out. Virgin Atlantic said its "priority will be to get as many passengers back their country of residence as quickly as possible."

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The volcano has caused the cancellation of 20,000 flights a day in Europe and, according to the International Air Transport Association, cost airlines at least $200 million a day in lost revenues, although clearly the airlines are saving some operating expenses by not flying their aircraft.

Mixed in with the frustration and delays are a few bright spots for travelers. Some theme parks and hotels are offering free admission and discounted or even free rooms to stranded passengers.

"I'm looking forward to getting home," said Rathnakumar G, a software engineer from Bangalore, who was supposed to be home in India on Friday. "I'm keeping my fingers my crossed."

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He spent three nights stranded at a hotel in the German countryside, about 60 miles outside Frankfurt.

"Inside the room was so boring, so we went sightseeing," he said.

But there is only so much to see in Germany's fabled Black Forest, and only so much news a non-German speaker can get on TV.

Luckily for Rathnakumar, his company Monday found a way home for him and 10 co-workers, but it won't be an easy journey.

Monday evening the group set out on an 18-passenger bus for the 10-to-12-hour drive south to Nice, France. From there, they plan to get on a flight to Dubai and then make a connection to Bangalore.

"Hopeful we reach Nice by tomorrow and hopefully the flights still operate," he said.

The journey home won't be cheap. The bus alone was $2,700 to charter and booking last-minute flights typically costs thousands extra. That's on top of the roughly $7,000 the company had to shell out for three extra nights in hotels for Rathnakumar and his colleagues.

Free Hotel Rooms

Across the Atlantic in Florida, some travelers were getting some good news.

The Seralago Hotel & Suites, in Kissimmee, is offering its existing stranded guests free rooms until flights resume and new guests a place to stay for $30 plus tax. (Rates are normally $45 to $84.)

"We often see that people want to take advantage of those people. They're stuck," said general manager Jan Rietveld. "They have a lot of extra expenses that they didn't count on and I really don't think it is right to try to take advantage of our travelers coming here."

Sea World is offering stranded travelers free admission to its two Orlando parks and Busch Gardens Tampa. About 2,000 European tourists took the theme parks up on the offer Sunday and another 2,000 did on Monday, according to Sea World spokesman Gerard Hoeppner

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