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A delegation of New Zealanders to the London Book Fair next week have been scattered and stranded all over the globe with volcanic ash continuing to disrupt flights across Europe.
All airports in Britain were shut down and others in France, the Netherlands, Nordic countries and others closed in an unprecedented, massive no-fly zone imposed after a volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Already 1500 Air New Zealand passengers have been affected, with one flight diverted to Frankfurt and another stuck in Los Angeles. Flights out of London have been cancelled.
A major travel agency, House of Travel, says thousands in New Zealand will be affected. Is it expected that internationally up to one million people will have their schedules disrupted.
One international niche particularly hit is the world of publishers and booksellers: the London Book Fair, starting next week, was to attract delegations from around the world, this year based on a South African theme.
From New Zealand, two from publishers Bookreps are stuck in Los Angeles; another is in the South of France crossing her fingers she can get away; a Waikato bookshop owner is doubting whether he will get to even leave the country; a HarperCollins representative has made it into London already on an earlier flight but may find the fair depleted; and industry members expect there may be others stuck in Hong Kong.
"It's chaos," said Hamish Wright, from Cambridge's Wrights Bookshop. "It's a complete state of flux at the moment. Who knows whether I'm getting there."
Mr Wright is meant to leave Sunday night from Auckland - but the volcanic cloud may not be cleared by then, and even if it is, the backlog of flights would mean continuing disruptions for days.
Many in the industry left last night on flights to London via Hong Kong and Los Angeles, stop over points where their Air New Zealand planes are still stranded and may have to turn back, Mr Wright said.
Susan Holmes and Jennie Brockie, from Bookrep, are two of the New Zealand delegates stuck in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the company, Mike Hill, said the pair had organised to spend two nights in Los Angeles hoping the situation would clear up.
"They're being philosophical about it and playing it by ear," Mr Hill said.
"It's thrown the whole book fair into disarray."
Celebrity cookbook author Annabel Langbein, meanwhile, is in Cannes, still hopeful her weekend flight to London may get off the ground. She has been attending a television festival this week, where other New Zealanders are also stuck.
Brian Holland told nzherald.co.nz at 2am local time that Kiwis, upon learning their flights were cancelled, just took to the bar. Although those left in the French Riviera were busy merry-making, one of Mr Holland's colleagues had left early for London so she could be back in New Zealand in time for her child's birthday party - and was now stuck in a Wembley hotel.
Ms Langbein's assistant, Belinda Storey, said the company's stand at the fair would be pointless without Langbein.
But with delegations from around the world needing to get past the ash cloud to fly into the book fair, it will not just be Annabel Langbein Media's stand that seems empty.
Tony Fisk, of HarperCollins, may face a severely depleted fair when he shows up. He flew out last week and has made it to London already, a company spokesman said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand rugby league player Robbie Paul - now playing for Leigh Centurions in Britain - has had his plans to play in the south of France thrown into disarray.
The team members have been put on a 24-hour, 974-mile coach trip from hell to reach the match.
"A 24-hour journey?," was Paul's response. "I can fly back to New Zealand in that time."
"We were meant to have a chilled evening, then train," he told the Sun newspaper in London. "It's a real pain in the butt."
Airports could remain closed into the weekend and intermittent disruptions continue for weeks or months depending on where the weather carries the ash.
Air New Zealand international group general manager Ed Sims said travellers faced "a very uncertain situation", and customers heading to Britain were urged to defer their plans and not go on their flights. The airline is accommodating stranded passengers in hotels.
Air New Zealand was expecting to be updated on the situation about 6pm NZT.
Passengers should monitor the situation on the airline's website, call 0800 737 000, or check with their travel agent.
In Christchurch, a London-bound Singapore Airlines plane left this morning for Singapore. An Emirates flight to London via Sydney, Bangkok and Dubai left this afternoon.
Flights scheduled to land in Britain continued to leave Auckland International Airport last night and this morning.
An airport spokesman said airlines were trying to get their planes as close to their destinations as possible before grounding them.
A 9am Korean Air flight would at least get to its stopover point, Seoul, the spokesman said.