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The winning volcano story

We invited travellers who had been caught-up in the volcano ash crisis to send in their stories.

Abigail Fletcher, who lives in Lancashire, is the winner and she can expect a hassle-free start to her next journey, with a prize of a luxury airport hotel package to kick-off her next holiday.

Abigail Fletcher's Incredible Journey...

After two weeks in the USA we had heard about the volcanic cloud from some other tourists.  Thankful that we were already out of the country on our holiday and praying that it would all be over before we were due to go home.  The last leg of our trip involved a fight to Trinidad and a connecting flight to St Lucia.

We boarded our American Airlines flight from Miami early on 17th April and landed in Trinidad later that day.  On queuing for Customs we approached the glass only to be questioned by the customs staff as to where we were going.  Having planned a transfer we had not completed the section of the immigration form entitled which hotel we are staying in during our visit.  We explained that we were merely transfering to the British Airways flight to St Lucia.  We had assumed that the flight was a small 'hopper' when infact it was a large plane which flew Trinidad, St Lucia....Gatwick, and yes, it was still stuck in Gatwick.

The customs officer explained that she could not allow us entry to the country because we had nowhere to stay.  There were no British Airways staff to be seen and we were left in the 'no mans land' that is the other side of the customs desks.  The customs officer kept our passports.

Eventually we were met by the American Airlines ground staff, it appears that they had to take responsibility for us as we were last in their care.  After much to-ing and fro-ing we signed paperwork which stated us as illegal immigrants and were transported to a local hotel under guard.  I would add at this point that the only people in this predicament were myself, my partner Simon and my daughter Hattie.

We spent the night under guard, we were not allowed to leave the hotel and had to phone in food, the guards knocked on our doors to check we were still in the room and in the morning they escorted us back to the airport.  American Airlines had arranged for us to fly to Porto Rico, we boarded the plane fully escorted the whole way and only when we were sat at our seats did we get our passports back.  We also signed paperwork to be deported!

We arrived in Porto Rico and waited approx. 8 hrs in the airport for our flight to St Lucia.  Eventually we caught our plane and made our way to St Lucia.  Our misery did not end there though, the plane was unable to land in St Lucia due to a storm and had to land in Martinique, however because we did not have the correct paperwork we could not disembark there.  We had to sit on the tarmac for another 2 hours waiting for the storm to pass.  The engines were off and it was about 30 degrees.  The pilot announced that he had received instructions to return to Porto Rico if he could not land in St Lucia, the whole plane groaned.  The pilot took off and tried one more pass and it was clear enough to land.


We arrived at our resort at midnight, one day after planned with a cool story to tell.

Abigail wins a luxury travel add-ons package for a family of four, to include an overnight stay at a 4-star airport hotel with dinner and breakfast plus eight days airport parking.

Winning story selected
by Simon Calder

Simon Calder said, "I thought I'd heard all the volcano stories but this one takes the prize. Being treated as an illegal immigrant in the beautiful Caribbean island of Trinidad and finally making it out of there only to discover the weather in St Lucia was too awful and ending up in different island entirely shows the truth of the air maxim 'hope for the best but prepare for the worst'."