Spain schedules 160 special flights to get passengers home

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Spain scheduled 160 special flights Tuesday to get travellers home who have been stranded by the volcanic ash cloud that has shutdown airports around much of the rest of Europe, civil aviation authority AENA said.

The flights landed or departed from airports at Madrid, Barcelona, Girona, Malaga, Majorca in the Balearic Islands and Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura in the Canary Island, which have not been affected by the ash could, AENA said in a statement.

The majority of the flights -- 94 -- operated from Barcelona's airport. Once passengers arrived in the northeastern port city they could seek to return home by land or ferry.

AENA said 75 buses alone had been hired by airlines, tour operators and governments to take the passengers from Barcelona to various other European cities.

The flights from the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands were mostly to mainland Spain and they carried mainly northern European holidaymakers.

One of the six exceptional flights which operated from Madrid Barajas airport was the arrival of a Delta plane from Atlanta carrying Europeans who were stranded in the United States.

"Instead of catching a plane for Paris, we got a plane for Madrid. Then we will get a plane for Toulouse and from Toulouse we will travel by car to Clemont," a Frenchman who gave his name as Mathieu told AFP at Barajas after arriving from Atlanta from a business trip.

Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco on Sunday offered to open up landing slots for planes scheduled to go to other European nations which have been affected by the eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland.

Under the plan Spain has beefed up train, ferry and bus services to help get passengers to the country of their final destinations.

© 2010 AFP

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