Tidbits for travelers: Volcano underwear at Schiphol

I spent a morning touring Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in search of new amenities and services to share.

Along the way my tour guide, Marianne de Bie (who reminded me that she’d been my tour guide almost ten years ago!) shared some stories about what the Schiphol staff did to try to make stranded people more comfortable during the “the ash cloud.”

The airport brought in shower trucks (the kind you see at festivals)  and after a few days asked the First and Business class lounges with on-site showers to open them to passengers; which they did.   Stranded passengers were also treated to sandwiches, free Wi-Fi, movies and offered toothpaste, socks, and underwear that the airport had quickly purchased to hand out.

“We have dollar stores like anyplace else,” de Bie told me, “But the underwear supplier made a mistake and included 500 pairs of expensive brand-name boxer shorts for men.  Those turned out to be very popular.”

Tidbits for travelers: free buffets at JFK; free flights to nowhere

Volcano-delayed flights to and from Europe and beyond are resuming, but airport closures and flight cancellations may continue on-and-off for weeks. So this NYT tracking map may be handy for a while longer.

NYT volcano cancellation map

In the meantime, people have been opening their homes to stranded passengers and theaters, museums and restaurants have been offering discounted and free entertainment and meals to folks who found themselves stuck at the airport.  At JFK, the company that operates all the restaurants and fast-food outlets in Terminal 4 – SSP America – organized a free buffet meal for about 300 on Monday night. Breakfast for 300 was served Tuesday morning as well.

And no doubt because I spent so much time learning about the ins and outs of some very tiny and unusual airports for a Bing story titled: Easy Flier: 10 airports that reduce the hassle, I was extremely interested in this story on CNN, which discusses some other small airports around the country that end up having to offer free flights in order to maintain federal funding.

Stuck at the airport: British Navy to the rescue

This closing-the-airports-because-of-the -volcano, for the fifth day now, is getting to be too much for a lot of travelers and now, for the British government.

That’s why, says this article, “Royal Navy ships may be joined by commandeered civilian vessels to bring home British citizens, who have now been stuck since last Thursday across Europe and around the world.

It is possible that Spain, which is largely unaffected by the giant ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano, allowing aircraft to fly in its air space, may be used as the “hub” of the operation for people who are stranded outside Europe, principally in Africa and North America.”

And, as long as we’re all focused on volcanoes, take a look at this round-up of volcano images and information from around the world, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, including this stereograph labeled “Gazing through sulphurous vapors into the crater’s frightful depths Aso-San, Japan. 1904 or earlier.”

The Smithsonian archivist who gathered up these images notes that there is descriptive text on the back of the stereograph that includes this passage:

“You are in the province of Higo on the island of Kyushu, near the southwestern end of the Mikado’s island empire. This is the largest active volcano in the world. You come over from Kumamoto and get coolie guides like these bare-legged fellows, to show you the way up here to the rim of the crater. It is like the open door of the infernal regions. Those vapors are sulphur smoke and scalding steam; if you were to wait awhile, great tongues of fiery flame might very likely shoot up, lapping with hideous suggestiveness these very lips of volcanic rock on which you are dizzily perched. Horrid cracklings and roarings rise continually out of that bottomless pit into which the men are peering – there are sounds of ooiling and bubblings as of the Evil One’s own caldron, and every little while the crash of a thunderous explosion fills all this upper air.”