Image: Stranded passengers
Tina Fineberg  /  AP
Pat Thomas and her daughter Rhiannon Thomas, lying under a blanket, both from Birmingham, England, wait Saturday at New York's JFK International Airport for their flight to Dublin, Ireland, to be rescheduled
By
updated 4/19/2010 7:20:41 PM ET 2010-04-19T23:20:41

On Day Five at Camp Kennedy, Christien Lynen bathed in an airport restroom sink with her own soap and the one hand towel in her luggage. A Belgian family sat on the terminal floor around a coffee table they built out of a cardboard box.

And in a corner, two British tourists made light of their situation by scrawling a sign on a sheet of notebook paper: "JFK Squatters, Yorkshire Branch."

Hundreds of passengers are stranded at Kennedy Airport while they wait for the volcanic ash cloud over Europe to clear and flights to resume.

They have set up mini-encampments, brushing their teeth and hair in public bathrooms, fending off boredom by constructing a big cardboard airplane, and sleeping on cots under fluorescent lights amid the din of televisions and the public address system.

"Time goes by slow," said Laurence De Loosa, trying to get home to Belgium from a vacation to celebrate her 21st birthday with friends. "The lights were on all night. "It was not so easy to sleep. The TV was still on."

The cloud has paralyzed trans-Atlantic flights since Thursday, causing the biggest flight disruptions since 9/11.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the metropolitan area's major airports, has set up 1,000 cots and blankets at JFK and Newark, N.J., served hot meals to the stranded, and handed out essentials such as bottled water and baby wipes. The Red Cross and various consulates have provided some of the bedding and food.

On Monday afternoon, five days into the crisis, the agency opened trailers with a dozen showers at JFK.

The 500-some people camping out at the Port Authority's airports "are being well taken care of," said Chris Ward, the agency's executive director.

Some passengers made JFK their home because hotel rooms were scarce, they had gone way over budget on their New York vacations, or they just thought that staying close to the airport was the smartest thing to do if they wanted to get home soon.

Video: Skies over Europe to re-open to air traffic Around the world, hundreds of passengers were having similar experiences, resting on blankets spread on airport floors and relying in some cases on McDonald's meal vouchers.

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"We have one meal a day. At the moment a lot of people are not eating," Andrew Turner, a graduate student en route to London after a vacation in Sydney, said from Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

The passenger experience was more pleasant at Frankfurt Airport in Germany, where spokesman Uwe Witzel said the hundreds of stranded travelers were getting three meals a day, showers, fresh clothing and more.

"We've set up an Internet lounge, we've hired people to entertain the kids, and we've also arranged a spot outside the terminal building where people can go to get a breath of fresh air and some sun," he said.

At JFK's Terminal 4, passengers were putting their personal touches on their homes away from home.

Andrew Jenkins and Tom Laughton scrawled, "JFK Squatters, Yorkshire Branch" above their cots. Jenkins, 23, from Yorkshire, England, was relying on Red Cross blankets and $10 daily food vouchers from the Irish airline Aer Lingus.

"We were expecting to be sleeping on the floor," Jenkins said. "As long as we keep getting food vouchers, it's not going to kill us, is it?"

For Johan Bombeke, wife Annemie Quintiga and their three children, being stuck in an airport was no reason not to have furniture. The family arranged the cots they were given in a square, and in the center, they put a coffee table, constructed out of the box that the pillows they received came in.

Slideshow: Eruption in Iceland Alan Godfrey of London staved off boredom by using the boxes the cots were delivered in to construct a 4-foot-long airplane with the sign "Big Al's Airways. Tickets Available! $1." He drew windows on it and attached the wings with drinking straws.

Godfrey had been at the airport since Friday, marking the passage of time with little penstrokes on the wall, one for each night.

The "Welcome to Terminal 8" announcement was playing over and over on the public address system all night, said Lynen, 49, of Belgium. Lynen ate fruit, chips, croissants and soda provided by the Belgian Consulate to stranded travelers.

"When you're in a group you're stronger. Luckily we are all together. Everyone is very nice. We help each other," Lynen said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said community outreach workers have been sent to JFK to help stranded travelers.

"We love them and we want them to have a good time, but it's kind of hard to do when you can't get your luggage or have to sleep on a cot," he said. "There's no substitute for somebody that wants to get home — they're not going to be happy no matter what you do for them."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Outlook cloudy for grounded passengers

  1. Closed captioning of: Outlook cloudy for grounded passengers

    >>> news" begins now.

    >>> good evening . we were prepared to come on the air tonight and report that things were improving and we were expecting jets to take to the sar in europe and elsewhere after being grounded by that vol cannish ash. then came news late today that says, in effect, not so fast. the united kingdom air authority says the volcanic eruption in iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is moving south and east toward the uk, roughly the distance between chicago and new york . let's go quickly to iceland and get the latest from chris jansing . good evening .

    >> reporter: good evening , brian . this is an extremely dynamic situation. that volcanic plume started to grow again, late this afternoon it went from white to dark gray even to black . that indicates activity in the volcano is increasing and the ash is intensifying. the new cloud form which is moving toward great britain and could cause problems in a number of areas. i got off the phone with the chief volcanologist and he says eruptions

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