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As Iceland volcano ash lingers over Europe, stranded travelers' patience wanes

Planes across most of Western Europe were grounded for a fourth day Sunday as a cloud of ash from last week's Iceland volcano continues to hang in the air above. Stranded travelers are losing time, money – and patience.

Passengers rest as they wait for a flight at Barajas Airport, in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday. Barajas remained open but Spain's airport authority has closed 12 airports as the ash cloud emerging from an Icelandic volcano reaches the north of the country.

Arturo Rodriguez/AP

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The massive, meandering clouds of ash from last week's Iceland volcano continued to blanket wide swaths of Europe's air space for a fourth day Sunday, bringing the total number of flights canceled since Thursday to well over 63,000.

For some airlines, that's an estimated loss of more than $200 million a day.

European Union transport ministers will examine the results of weekend test flights by empty airliners on Monday and consider how soon the skies might be back open for business.

It may still be days, which is bad news for any business heavily reliant on air freight and for anyone trying to travel to, from, or through Europe. But for the tens of thousands of stranded travelers, it may be even worse.

The novelty of their predicament – "Volcanic ash?! No way!!" – wears off fast. As does the whole “we are all in this together” thing.

Long lines, long faces, and lots of Muzak

What you are left with is masses of frustrated travelers stranded around the globe – their movement thwarted by a volcano named Eyjafjallajokull – searching for alternative routes, standing in long lines, shelling out money they do not want to spend on food and hotels, and listening endlessly to Muzak on their cellphones, on hold for an airline representative.


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