Skies Reopen but Ad Execs Are Still Trying to Get Home

Online Travel Tales: Disco Party Boats and Stranded Bridesmaids

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LONDON ( -- The planes are back in the air, but it could be another two weeks before Europe gets back to normal following the six-day flight ban caused by the ash from an Icelandic volcano. Meanwhile, some stranded ad folks are finding online fame after discovering bizarre transport like Scandinavia's overnight disco party boat and the travails of a Publicis exec in wedding finery trying to get home to Brazil from London to be a bridesmaid.

Nathalie Gil in her bridesmaid's dress stuck in London.
Nathalie Gil in her bridesmaid's dress stuck in London.
Around 150,000 Brits have been trapped abroad, including Neil Christie, managing director of Wieden & Kennedy, London. He and six others took a one-day trip to see their Nokia client in Finland, and ended up staying for six days, sampling everything Helsinki has to offer.

"It's not so bad," he said stoically, "people are not fighting over Mars bars. It's relatively civilized. We've been waiting in a hotel, not camped out at a ferry docks."

Mr. Christie eventually traveled overnight with his team from Helsinki to Stockholm on a disco party boat, complete with a drag show at 9 p.m. They arrived in Stockholm, only to find the city's airport was the only major European airport still closed. They finally went by road to Copenhagen and then by air to London via Paris.

The flight ban meant that Nathalie Gil, a regional strategic planner at Publicis for Procter & Gamble, was unable to get back home to Brazil to be a bridesmaid at her cousin's wedding.

Stranded in London, Ms. Gil made a video of herself dressed up in her long bridesmaid's gown attempting to use London transport -- a bus, taxi and even a bicycle -- to start the long journey to South America. Ms. Gil quickly became a TV and internet sensation in Brazil, where she appeared on top TV network Rede Globo's flagship morning news show, driving traffic to her blog.

Naked Communications was also in the thick of the volcano aftermath, stuck with managing partner Chris Green in Mumbai. He said via e-mail, "I got as far as Riyadh, where I was greeted by a gentleman with a gun and told I couldn't travel to Spain for another three days, and that he was putting me on the next flight back to Mumbai (for which I would have had to wait 24 hours). I managed somehow to plead my way onto an Air France flight to Paris, where I have just landed. No sign of any dust clouds, I have to say. Now off to Calais to queue for a ferry."

Despite the hassle, Mr. Green added, "It has been good for business -- my extra time in Mumbai was spent working on a pitch, and I shared my flight from Riyadh with a creative director from a U.K. retailer who is now interested in working on a brand-strategy project with us. Every (volcanic) cloud has a silver lining..."

Meanwhile, Naked partner Ivan Pollard took several trains to get to the French coast, only to find that both the Eurostar train and the ferries were sold out. The next morning, after a night in a one-star hotel, "sleeping in a bed the size of a fish finger," he got a ticket for Sea France Ferries, which would have been great, except they don't take foot passengers.

His assistant, Sarah Franhkam, said, "He got a ticket for a bicycle rider. He rose early in the morning and queued up outside a bike shop for an hour, trying to work out how he was going to cycle onto the ferry in a suit, with a week's luggage. Thankfully one of his new-found friends he'd met on his journey called him to say that P&O had tickets for foot passengers."

A team at AKQA wins the prize for most daring journey home. When they found themselves stuck in the Berlin office last week, they drove overnight to the port of Calais, where they hitched a ride on a "rib boat" (which is barely more than a rubber dinghy). Jason Warnes, client services director at AKQA London, said the rib-boat owner walked among the desperate travelers, looking for young, fit people without too much luggage who might risk a ride with him.

The AKQA team paid $135 for the privilege of riding on the rib -- pretty much the same as they would have paid for a ride on a ferry with toilets, entertainment and restaurants. But Mr. Warnes enjoyed the experience. "I like an adrenaline rush -- I would have paid for that kind of thrill anyway."

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