The plenary session opened in Strasbourg on Monday at 17:30, a move which Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said was an obligation under the EU assembly's Rules of Procedure.
"A number of colleagues also suggested that the plenary session be moved from Strasbourg to Brussels but as the airports in both cities remain closed, there was no objective justification for such a last-minute change," the Parliament president wrote in a letter to MEPs.
The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland apparently gave several MEPs fresh inspiration in calling for the EU assembly to have a single seat in Brussels. Others more diplomatically insisted that the French state was obliged to make the journey "feasible", at least by train with state-owned SNCF. However, SNCF workers are on a prolonged partial strike and train travel remains chaotic.
"I really don't wish to be rude or offensive to French friends and colleagues, but it would be incredibly helpful if the French government and political community in general could carry through their championing of the obligation to have the travelling circus to Strasbourg by trying to ensure that state-owned transport operators make that journey at least possible," wrote MEP Sarah Ludford (ALDE, UK) in an e-mail to colleagues.
"Air France has already dropped direct London-Strasbourg flights, which is OK since the rail option is both greener and normally feasible. But it does mean that in both usual and especially in unusual times, we are hugely dependent on state-owned SNCF," Ludford lamented.
The decision to shift voting over to the May plenary session was taken in response to concerns expressed by MEPs from the EU's more distant periphery that decision-making would be unfair without their participation.
"With large delegations of MEPs from countries not so far from Strasbourg - 5-10 hours by car or train - the required quorum may exist even by Monday afternoon. However, I insist that voting under such circumstances would be undemocratic as many will be missing for reasons they are not responsible for," MEP Renate Weber (ALDE, Romania) wrote to fellow MEPs.
"It is more than enough that many of us will not be present in the group meetings to discuss the draft resolutions of SWIFT, PNR, the cyanide ban [...] But to proceed with the vote in our absence would be too much," Weber said.
MEPs wrote hundreds of emails to each other, and some parliamentarians complained that the flurry of comments on the Strasbourg session reached the level of spamming.
"If all those who have participated in this MEP chat room thus far invested the same amount of creativity in getting home at the end of last week as getting back to Parliament this week, we would find almost as many colleagues as usual in Strasbourg," German centre-right MEP Michael Gahler (European People's Party) wrote.
Today Parliament will debate wider issues surrounding the airspace closure and their impact with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.