Flights over the North and Scotland resume – but new ash cloud on the way

Any quantity of particles is still a threat, warns aviation expert

A new ash cloud threatened to disrupt plans to reopen some of Britain's airspace last night. The air traffic control service Nats said it was spreading south and east towards the UK.



Scottish airspace was nonetheless expected to be available from 7am this morning with more airspace over England becoming available from 1pm, though not as far south as London's airports. Manchester airport said it hoped to be open from 9am. The situation for Northern Ireland's airports was uncertain.

"The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the UK," Nats said in a statement last night. "This demonstrates the dynamic and rapidly changing conditions in which we are working. Latest information from the Met Office shows that the situation is worsening in some areas."

Nats said it would provide further updates at 3am and 7am this morning. British Airways had been aiming to resume some flights from London's airports from 7pm today, but because of the new developments, a BA spokesman said it was "reviewing" its schedule.

Earlier the airlines had been putting heavy pressure on the Government to lift the ban, pointing to the results from test flights and suggesting that the complete closure of UK airspace was an over-reaction.

Even before Nats' latest warnings, aviation experts remained uncertain as whether it was too early to lift restrictions on airspace. There were concerns that any amount of particles still threatened problems.

Chris Yates, an aviation consultant, said the position of the expert International Airways Volcanic Watch Operations Group was that there was "no definition of a safe concentration of ash" as a result of more than 80 jet incidents between 1980 and 2000.

"While it remains possible to find clear air high above us, this doesn't necessarily mean there are no pockets of high concentrations of ash at the various flight levels," Mr Yates said. "I would therefore suggest it's better to err on the side of caution."

Ben Vogel, editor of Jane's Airport Review, pointed out that engine problems caused to two Finnish Air Force F-18 fighter-bombers last week – disclosed by Nato yesterday – underlined the damage that volcanic dust could do to planes, but said the "small risk" had to be balanced against the financial damage to the airline industry.

According to analysts at UBS, airlines have been losing €140m (£123m) a day, with no insurance cover available to protect them. The no-frills airline easyJet put its total losses at £40m, while British Airways revealed it was losing up to £20m a day, making total losses of about £100m.

BA and other airlines lobbying to be allowed to restart operations ran a series of "test flights" to show that the skies were safe while also holding talks with plane and aero-engine manufacturers about the risk posed by particles from the ash cloud.

Analysis of a BA test flight over the Atlantic on Sunday, which took off from Heathrow and landed at Cardiff, had revealed no variations in the aircraft's normal operational performance, the airline said.

BA's chief executive Willie Walsh, who joined a flight crew on board a Boeing 747, said: "The analysis we have done so far, alongside that from other airlines' trial flights, provides fresh evidence that the current blanket restrictions on airspace are unnecessary. We believe airlines are best positioned to assess all available information and determine what, if any, risk exists to aircraft, crew and passengers."

The no-fly zone was imposed across Britain on Thursday after a plume of ash shot into the air south of Iceland on Wednesday night. Even with some flights returning, there is not expected to be any rapid improvement in the situation of the 500,000 British passengers left without flights at home and abroad. It is expected to take airlines at least a week before they ferry back those stuck abroad and begin operating a full service.

A new £500m cruise ship, the Celebrity Eclipse, is to sail to Spain to pick up almost 3,000 stranded British tourists. The luxury vessel has delayed its inaugural celebration and is due to leave Southampton tonight for Bilbao.

In the meantime, travellers have continued to make their way back on congested ferries and Eurostar trains. All ferry services between Spain and the UK are fully booked for a week.

The Government decided to call in the Navy after the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of Cobra, the emergency planning committee. There are plans for three warships to help with the rescue effort.

HMS Albion, an amphibious landing ship, was already on its way to Santander in northern Spain to pick up soldiers returning from Afghanistan, and will now be available to take civilian passengers as well. HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean, aircraft and helicopter carriers, are on their way down to continental waters, with their destinations still being planned.

Some passengers complained that they had received little consular assistance, despite the Government's whirl of activity. Some passengers also contacted the Air Transport Users Council complaining that airlines were refusing to meet the terms of EU legislation requiring them to pay for hotel and living expenses for passengers whose flights had been cancelled.

Airlines, whose shares have slumped, have appealed for government compensation to help them to recover from the unprecedented shutdown. Economists at Grant Thornton have estimated that the loss of productivity will cost the economy around £10m a day as business people are unable to travel.

In Britain, the number of schoolchildren stuck abroad prompted an exams body, the Joint Council for Qualifications, to consider delaying GCSE papers. At St Mary's Calne, an independent girls' school in Wiltshire, where 45 of the 300 pupils are stranded overseas, GCSE German oral exams were cancelled.

But the flight ban is not bad news for everyone: hoteliers in the Lake District have reported a surge in bookings. The tourism body Visit Britain said the airline industry's problems could prove lucrative for local tourism businesses and the UK economy.

As flights begin to return, airports warned passengers to check with airlines before setting off. A spokesman for Glasgow airport said: "We strongly advise passengers to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport, as not all flights will operate. All Scottish airports are currently working with airlines to understand their intentions in terms of operating flights."

A Heathrow airport spokesman said: "As things stand, all flights remain suspended. When airports do open for business, we will continue to strongly advise passengers that they must check the status of their flight with airlines before travelling to airports."

Down-to-earth celebrities

*Former prime minister Tony Blair has been unable to fly home from Israel, where he has been carrying out his role as a Middle East envoy. Cherie Blair said her husband was hoping to return home as soon as he could to help Labour win a historic fourth term.



*Rock band Status Quo will be forced to travel home from a gig in Moscow by rail and road after their flights were affected. Their tour bus has been dispatched to pick them up from Warsaw and the journey will take almost two days.



*Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles was forced to miss his morning show after he was grounded in New York. He had been expected to return on Sunday. Moyles described his situation as "a very, very surreal [but] kind of pleasant nightmare", and said he had run out of underwear. "I'm going to have to get my pants and socks laundered at the hotel," he added. Fellow BBC DJ Scott Mills took his place on the breakfast show.



*Actor Kiefer Sutherland, who last week caused a stir after being thrown out of Stringfellows nightclub, has still not been able to fly home to California from London.



*Filming for the new series of the popular television show Dragons' Den has been delayed, with judge Peter Jones unable to return home from Barbados due to the travel chaos.



* Miley Cyrus is unable to attend the UK premiere of her new film The Last Song, and singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner is stranded in Hong Kong. The Cribs, Delphic and Gary Numan were also forced to pull out of the weekend's Coachella festival in California.



*US singers Usher and Adam Lambert are unable to carry out promotional duties in Europe, while actress Demi Moore has declared herself unable to attend UK press interviews for her new film The Joneses.



*And cast members of the stage version of Hi-de-Hi! must be wishing they'd gone camping rather than holidaying in France and the Maldives after two actors got stranded. Understudies will fill in for Peter Amory and Rebecca Bainbridge at the Haymarket in Basingstoke this week.

Thomas Jackson

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
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

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?