But while many passengers had nowhere to go, this group got a lucky break.
A group of British drama students from the Gordonstown School in Northern Scotland are visiting the bay area.
They've been touring California, performing a modern version of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." They were supposed to be here two weeks, but just when they were about to leave the volcano hit and the students' flight was cancelled.
"It was very tough to begin with, especially not knowing where we were going to stay, how long we would be here," Gabby McGhie said.
The Scottish school is part of an international network of schools called Round-Square and lucky for them, the Athenian School in Danville is a network member.
Faculty members and parents offered to let the stranded students stay with them for free.
"We've felt really welcome here. We've been integrated in lots of classrooms, the library and we've met quite a few students. We go to lunch, breakfast, tea here," Hannah Adams said.
Dick Bradford is head of the Athenian high School. He's got three students staying with him and in a strange twist of fate, his own daughter, a high school senior, happens to be on an exchange program herself.
"So she's in northern India for the past two months and has been stranded there since last Saturday. So I know exactly what these kids are going through and the parents are probably going through as well," he said.
The British students were panicked about missing class. In just a few weeks they are supposed to take the "A Level" exams, critical to their future.
"These exams pretty well make or break whether you get into university," Iona Watson said.
The Athenian School has loaned computers and set up internet links to help the students stay in touch with their teachers and prepare for the test.
On Friday, British teens put on a performance to thank the school.
The British students are now scheduled to return home on April 30, but a lot of them told ABC7 they really can't wait to come back.
Written and produced by Jennifer Olney