Stranded Flyers Running Out of Cash, Want to Go Home

"They chose to invest their discretionary dollars in our community and, through no fault of their own, now they are stranded," Hoeppner said. "Until they can return home, we want them to get a break from what is undoubtedly a stressful and uncertain time."

Travel guide Lonely Planet is even offering 13 of its European iPhone guides free this week to help travelers stuck in unfamiliar places. And Medieval Times was offering free dinners and a show to stranded passengers at the airport in Newark, N.J.

Not everybody is being so generous.

In Sydney, Austrlia, Andrew and Debbie Jackman of Britain and their two teenage sons squeezed into a hotel room at the Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach Friday that cost 150 Australian dollars ($138 U.S.). By Saturday, the hotel raised the price to $350. After hours of pleading, the hotel lowered the price to $160, Andrew Jackman told the Associated Press.

Asked if the hotel was guilty of price-gouging, the hotel's general manager, Alan Burrows, said simply, "We dynamically price much like the airlines do, according to how many rooms we have to sell in the hotel."

Hotel Rooms for Stranded Volcano Passengers

Nigel Pocklington, vice president of strategy and marketing for Hotels.com, said prices are typically slightly higher for short-term bookings and that he has not seen any evidence of widespread profiteering. In fact, he said many hotels are waiving their last-second cancellation fees.

"We're not seeing too much that is out of the ordinary in pricing," Pocklington said. "I suspect that is because the hotels will be having as many cancellations and they are having demands for to offer new rooms."

Some are even marketing to this disaster. The Stafford London by Kempinski is offering stranded travelers a special "Volcano Rate" that includes breakfast and 17.5 percent tax.

"My anecdotal sense is that the U.S. hotel industry is bending over backwards to be perceived as a Good Samaritan in this time of great anxiety among trans-Atlantic travelers," said Scott Berman, who tracks the hotel industry for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For instance, Berman said that more than 30 New York City hotels offered a 15-percent discount to stranded passengers.

"I think the risk of gouging today is too great," he said. "That doesn't mean there isn't somebody out there who is trying to take advantage of the situation" but there has been more good than bad.

Iceland Volcano: Show Me the Way Home

For Mike Evangelist, a Minnesota businessman stranded in Germany, finding a hotel room has almost been as daunting as getting home.

The troubles started when he went down to his front desk and asked to extend his stay. The response was straightforward and disappointing:

"They said no."

The problem: Monday was the start of Bauma, a week-long construction and mining equipment conference that brings 3,150 vendors and thousands of other attendees to town.

"Every hotel room in the whole city is booked for that convention," Evangelist said.

So he went from hotel to hotel searching for a place to rest his head.

Finally, one offered him a room but it came at an extraordinary price: 370 euros (about $500) compared to the 119 euros a night at his previous hotel. And even then, the hotel could only offer him the room for one night.

"This is not a volcano rate, this is just the huge-convention-in-town rate," said Evangelist, who works for Elgato, a Munich-based company that makes television tuners for computers.

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