Ash cloud spreads over Europe, and already the fallout has begun

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary attacks Civil Aviation Authority for cautious approach as thousands are stranded at airports

A bitter row broke out yesterday between the pugnacious head of Ryanair and civil aviation authorities over whether it was right to cancel flights across northern Britain because of the Grimsvotn ash cloud.

Hundreds of travellers had to endure cancellations with little indication of when they would be able to travel. Regional airline Loganair scrapped 38 flights while easyJet, Flybe, Aer Lingus and British Airways also called off flights alongside Ryanair, which said it had been forced to cancel all its flights to and from Scottish airports.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary denounced the situation after his airline carried out a one-hour test flight 41,000ft over Scotland yesterday morning from Glasgow Prestwick to Inverness, on to Aberdeen and then south to Edinburgh, through the so-called "red zone" of the ash cloud.

Mr O'Leary said there appeared to be no volcanic ash over Scotland that posed a risk to aircraft and that the notion of a "red zone" was a misguided invention of the UK Met Office. It was also a mistake by the Civil Aviation Authority to close the airspace, he suggested. "It's not about picking up the tab for the debacle, it's about learning about the mess and the mismanagement of last year and not repeating the same bureaucratic bungling or mistakes that were made," Mr O'Leary said.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, said Ryanair's aircraft did not fly through the "red zone" designated by the Met Office and criticised Mr O'Leary for his comments. "It is confusing and irresponsible and I don't condone what Michael O'Leary did this morning," Mr Hammond said last night. "The radar track information suggests the Ryanair aircraft Mr O'Leary has been referring to that flew over Scotland this morning did not fly in any 'red zone', so in fact all he has done is confirm the CAA's own model, which showed there was no ash in the areas where that aircraft flew.

"We have a different solution from last year, and Ryanair have been involved with all the other airlines in discussions to arrive at that solution.

"We know much more precisely where the cloud is and what the density of the cloud is and the airlines have much more discretion in making their own proposed operational plans, putting them to the CAA for approval.

"Under last year's approach, we would now be seeing much more widespread disruption than we are."

He added that the situation would improve. "There is likely to be some continued disruption because of ash at high levels affecting the routes of long-haul flights. But we are not expecting to see airport departures stopped after the early hours of tomorrow morning," he said.

Although air traffic control company Nats expected the ash to have cleared UK airspace by 1am today, European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said between 200 and 250 flights had already been cancelled.

Ryanair issued a warning yesterday evening to customers awaiting flights from Germany that their travel may be disrupted, and Germany's meteorlogical service saidthe ash may cause temporary shutdowns of its northern airspace.

The situation is also being closely monitored by Spanish football fans.

Barcelona announced they would be flying in early for the Champions League final – two days ahead of their expected arrival. Fans may, however, be less flexible in their travel arrangements ahead of the match at Wembley.

Experts warned yesterday that the danger of volcanic ash to aircraft safety should not be underestimated. Dr David Rothery, of the Open University Volcano Dynamics Group, said: "Volcanic ash is a serious risk if it gets sucked into jet engines. There were three separate incidents over Indonesia and Alaska in the 1980s when jumbo jets temporarily lost all their engines, and were lucky to be able to restart them in time to make successful emergency landings."

Q&A: Your rights if a flight is cancelled

My flight has been cancelled – what can I do?

If you are flying from your local airport, you can rebook free of charge for a later flight – or cancel, and apply for a refund, which, with luck, will turn up in a couple of weeks. Of course if you've booked (as many people do these days) an outbound on one airline and an inbound with another carrier, you can only claim back the outbound flight – unless the inbound one is subsequently cancelled. If you're away from home, it's a very different story – the airline has a duty of care to look after you – as long as it's based in the EU. So, stay by the pool and order lunch until the airline can get you home.

But I have to get home...

If you decide to make your own way back, the only liability of the airline is to refund the fare for the cancelled flight. All other costs are down to you – though some travel insurers may compensate you. Your airline may offer to fly you to an alternative destination, such as from Faro to London rather than Edinburgh, but in these cases you must meet the onward travel expenses.

What if I'm outside the EU on a non-EU airline?

Then you could be in trouble. For example, if you're in New York and flying on one of the US airlines, they will say, approximately, "We'll get you where you need to be, as soon as we can, but meanwhile you're on your own" – and that's in a city where accommodation typically costs £200 a night. Even if you booked, say, with BA, you could find yourself flying on a "codeshare" with its partner American Airlines – in which case there is no obligation of care. It's the "metal", ie the airline doing the flying, that counts.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering