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Barrington Hills doctor adapts to volcano holdup
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Staff

John Prunskis, a Barrington Hills doctor, was supposed to participate in Lithuania's Parliament Commision Hearings this week, but the volcano ash canceled his flight there.

 

Courtesy of the Prunskis family

John Prunskis, a Barrington Hills doctor, was supposed to participate in Lithuania's Parliament Commision Hearings this week, but the volcano ash canceled his flight there.

 

Courtesy of the Prunskis family

Passengers wait in line to check into a Lufthansa flight that is scheduled to leave for Europe from Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Monday.

 

Associated Press

Stranded airline passenger Remes Veerle waits to hear about possible flights resuming to Europe at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Monday, April 19, 2010 in Houston. Veerle has been trying to get home to Belgium since Saturday. Many flights have been canceled due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland which closed most of Europe's airspace.

 

Associated Press

Empty check-in desks are seen at Gatwick Airport, near London, England, Monday. Hundreds of thousands of passengers have been stranded around the world since the volcano in southern Iceland begun erupting Wednesday for the second time in a month.

 

Associated Press

The third of three KLM passenger planes takes off from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday en route to New York. European transport officials have carved up the sky, creating three zones to break the flight deadlock caused by a cloud of volcanic ash flowing from Iceland over Europe. France said Monday that European countries can resume airline traffic in designated "caution zones" where the threat of ash is considered less dangerous.

 

Associated Press

A plume of ash from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier covers the farm of Pall Eggert Olafsson, in Thorvaldseyri, Iceland, Monday. Meteorologists in Iceland said eruptions from the volcano were weakening and the ash was no longer rising to a height where it would endanger large commercial aircraft.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 4/20/2010 12:01 AM

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John Prunskis of Barrington Hills knows the frustration being felt these days by tens of thousands of business and vacation travelers around the world.

Like them, he saw his foreign travel plans immediately and unexpectedly dashed by the explosion of a volcano in Iceland. He was set to fly to Germany and then to Lithuania to participate in his first hearing of the World Lithuanian Community Commission.

But ash from the erupting volcano canceled his flight, so instead, at 1 a.m. each day this week, Prunskis is logging onto his computer for live coverage and dialing up Skype to attend virtually.

"I set up two computers, side by side, so we could see each other and ask questions," said Prunskis.

Prunskis is among thousands of passengers stranded since April 15 when their Europe-bound flights were canceled after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, sending an unprecedented amount of ash several miles into the air.

The ominous clouds brought the ailing airline industry to a standstill over Europe, as thousands of flights were canceled and millions of dollars were lost. Industry authorities were worried about dangerous conditions from the ash clogging plane engines.

On Monday, 38 inbound and outbound European flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport, due to the ash. More than 150 flights from O'Hare to Europe have been canceled since April 15, said Karen Pride, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

"But some airlines at O'Hare International Airport anticipate they may initiate departures to European destinations later (Monday)," Pride said.

Prunskis, a physician, founder and co-medical director of Elgin-based Illinois Pain Institute, is of Lithuanian descent. While he was born in Chicago, his parents fled Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1944 when it was Communist controlled. His parents were doctors who first arrived in Boston and later settled in Chicago.

Last fall, Prunskis was elected a member of the Lithuanian parliamentary commission, a government group that focuses on major issues, including health care, energy and the economy, and aims to bring in people of Lithuanian heritage to help replenish talent that had been lost there during Communist rule.

Prunskis' term is three years and he's required to fly to Lithuania once every six months to participate in the hearings.

The meetings take place all week at 1 a.m. Chicago time and end around 10 a.m., so Prunskis shifted his daytime schedule so he could log on. This round of hearings continues through Friday.

His next hearing will be in October.

Despite the cancellation, he didn't lose anything on his tickets. He'd paid for them with frequent flier miles and the airlines reimbursed the mileage and added a small amount of cash to cover taxes he would have to pay.

Still, he said he's missing the interaction with other commission members and an evening reception hosted by the U.S. ambassador at the U.S. Embassy.

"There is absolutely no question it would have been better for me to be there in person," Prunskis said.