Didn't people once cross the Atlantic by passenger ship, even as recently as the 1960s and 70s? Maybe we should look into that again, because the Ash Cloud That Ate Europe is staying around for a while. According to the New York Times, the Airport Crisis Spreads as Ash Moves East:
A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano shut down much of air travel to and from Northern Europe for a third straight day and flights were likely to be disrupted through Monday morning as a massive transportation gridlock spread around the world.
-- snip --
Volcanic ash is primarily made up of silicates, akin to glass fibers, which when ingested into a jet engine can melt, causing the engine to flame out and stall.
Prop planes are just as vulnerable as jets to volcanic ash, from what I've seen on the internet, so we can't call the last remaining DC-3s back into commercial service.
It looks like travelers to Europe, including about a dozen people from my office alone who obtained TDY travel orders in the last week or so, are simply going to have to cool their heels for a few days longer.
By the way, the NYT helpfully provided a phonetic spelling of the name of the Icelandic volcano that caused all this trouble. It's spelled "Eyjafjallajokull," and is pronounced "EY-ya-fyat-lah-YO-kut." By the time I master that volcanic eruption of vowel sounds, the air travel crisis will be over.