Find help to get home online

2010-04-20 21:14

Paris - Travellers stranded by the cloud of volcanic ash that has paralysed flights all over Europe for days have turned to internet blogging and networking sites to try to find a way home.

On Twitter, the popular microblogging service, grounded passengers were exchanging valuable information to help each other with travel and sleeping arrangements.

Keywords like "getmehome" or "roadsharing", for example, were being used to reunite travellers offering or looking for car rides.

"A friend is travelling from London to Copenhagen, via Amsterdam and Hamburg, on April 22 in case someone is interested", read one message among dozens posted by Twitter users every hour.

"Can anybody take me from Amsterdam to Madrid? I can pitch in on the cost," said another.

'The spirit of the thing'

Other Twitter users were offering a place to sleep to travellers stranded in airports across the world. The keyword "putmeup" produced offers of "a room in Stockholm", "one bed available in Edinburgh until Friday" or "two rooms available in Buenos Aires".

Although the majority of proposals were free, a few rentals had also been advertised. Most were met by a flurry of hostile messages.

"Someone just proposed me a room for rent under the keyword 'putmeup'. That's not really the spirit of the thing, is it?" chided one Twitter user.

In the midst of so many anonymous messages, well-known people were also sharing their misadventures.

"Blocked in India by the cloud, like thousands of French people," wrote Harlem Desir, one of the leaders of the French Socialist Party.

"Martine Aubry (the party's leader) and I are trying to come home in every possible way, except by elephant."

Tweeting airlines

Several airline companies have also chosen Twitter to keep their clients informed in real time and to instruct them on how to change their booked seats.

"Lufthansa will resume its flights tonight" could be read on the German carrier's website. In the meantime, British Airways assured its customers that it was "studying its flight plans permanently".

The Estonian government also turned to social media to help its stranded citizens.

"The Twitter and Facebook sites for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are being used to help those who have been stranded across Europe," ministry spokesperson Kersti Luha told AFP.

On Facebook most of the messages between passengers were being posted on a page dedicated to the volcanic ash cloud, that had gathered more than 14 000 fans by Tuesday afternoon.

"It's like the black smoke monster out of 'Lost'," joked one, referring to the television series about a group of travellers marooned on a deserted island.