So I am probably by now the world's foremost lay expert on ash clouds and that blasted Icelandic volcano. This is what happens when a much desired holiday is imperiled. I have actually been very lucky with my flights so far. My Toronto-London flight took off as scheduled only two days after ash cloud related cancellations in the UK. My London-Stockholm flight took off, but only after a dramatic shift in winds that prevented the ash which had wiped out flights as far south as Birmingham from descending upon London. So I was probably due some ash-related inconvenience.
The story is this: I was supposed to fly from Stockholm to London (Stansted) on Monday night, and then London (Gatwick) to Toronto on Tuesday morning. But then, upon my arrival in Stockholm from Helsinki, I read that more ash was drifting southeast and had forced flight cancellations as far south as Manchester and Liverpool. Every news story I could find predicted that the ash would continue moving southeast and disrupt flights in London on Monday (the day I was scheduled to fly). I guess I began getting really nervous when East Midlands Airport, not too far from Stansted, closed. I called my airlines, and here is what I figured out:
If my flight TO London on Monday was wiped out, stranding me in Stockholm, but my flight FROM London on Tuesday morning went ahead (a very, very, very, very real possibility), I would have had to buy a brand new ticket back to Canada, because Air Transat would be unable to accommodate me.
So basically, I had to answer these questions:
1. Did I really need to get back to Canada quickly? (YES)
2. If so, how much would I be willing to pay to ensure this? (Unclear)
3. Assuming that there would be ash issues in London on Monday preventing my arrival there (and every single report that I read on Sunday anticipated that there would be), was I willing to pay for a one-way Stockholm-Toronto flight? (NO)
So I took a massive gamble, packed up all my stuff, bolted to Arlanda airport, and bought a ticket on the last flight into London Sunday night. It was expensive... not as expensive as it could have been, and certainly not as expensive as a ticket to Toronto, but expensive nonetheless. And now I'm in London. And wouldn't you know it, it looks like all my freaking out was for nothing: flight restrictions in London were JUST lifted (literally five minutes ago), and it appears as though my originally scheduled flight will proceed. But I don't give a shit. I made the best decision with the information that I had at the time. As far as I'm concerned, I bought myself rather expensive flight insurance for my London-Toronto flight, as well as piece of mind. I had a good sleep last night. I probably would have stayed up all night in Stockholm monitoring weather reports.
And oooh, let's rationalize this a bit further: the amount I spent on that flight last night was probably the same amount of money I would have spent on hostels in England, Sweden, and Denmark if I didn't stay with friends.
I hope I never have to write about ash clouds ever again.