The closure of UK airspace last Thursday left thousands of British skiers and snowboarders wondering how they were getting home, and presented a major headache to holiday companies. Ski Beat, one of the UK's oldest independent ski operators, has given us the whole story of how they managed to get their guests back on British soil.
Vicki from Ski Beat told us that the company learnt on Friday morning (16th April), that all their flights for the next day were grounded. Very quickly a plan had to be agreed and put into action. There were 287 Ski Beat guests in France - the company also managed to help out around 20 independent travellers.
They immediately contacted coach companies around the south east of England. A Kent company was particularly helpful, responding very quickly and booking the ferry - by that stage Eurostar had already sold out. The switchboard at P&O Ferries was obviously very busy - the number of calls they received has been estimated at around 40 000 on Friday alone!
The company needed to get guests back to Manchester, Gatwick and Stansted airports. Coaches for Stansted and Manchester (from 2 different companies) arranged with the French coaches to rendezvous at a supermarket car park near Calais port so that guests could be transferred. The coaches for Gatwick, organised by Ski Beat's team in France, were to go direct from France to Gatwick.
By the time guests returned from skiing on Friday the plan was in place and Ski Beat resort managers made sure everyone knew about it. Coaches left resorts between 4.00am and 7.00am the next morning, amid resounding cheers from people on board in some places!
Ski Beat reps were on board to make sure the operation ran smoothly. The coaches reached their destinations on Saturday evening/Sunday morning. The company also managed to get a group of 40 out to Val d'Isere and are in the process of arranging their return.
Thank you to Ski Beat for the detailed information - and take a look at their website for full details of their chalet programme in France.
Ski Beat were not the only company to be effected. The majority of UK ski companies suddenly had to find multiple coaches and space on the ferries to get their guests home over the weekend. We hope that all passengers have now got back safely.
It was not so long ago that all ski holidays - or a large proportion of them - were by bus.
Dramatic footage of the volcano from The Telegraph.