Hundreds of flights hit as ash reaches Britain

Airlines grounded about 500 flights Tuesday after ash from an Icelandic volcano swept over Britain and towards northern Europe in a fresh travel nightmare for thousands of passengers.

Barely a year after a similar eruption in Iceland forced the biggest closure of European airspace since World War II, ash-laden clouds caused flights in and out of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland to be cancelled.

British Airways led the way in cancelling flights as the plume from the Grimsvoetn volcano spread eastwards, followed by Dutch airline KLM, Ireland's Aer Lingus and budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair.

"Approximately 500 flights were cancelled from the approximately 29,000 that would have been expected today across Europe," said a statement from Brussels-based air traffic controllers Eurocontrol.

The ash cloud caused minor air traffic disruption in Norway and closed a small part of Denmark's airspace on Tuesday, and Eurocontrol warned there was a "strong possibility" that would spread to southwest Sweden by Wednesday.

"This would have some impact on flights. However, given the new procedures in place and the predicted movement of the ash cloud over the coming days, the actual impact on flights is expected to be relatively low," it said.

Weather charts produced by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre run by Britain's Met Office predicted that a low cloud of ash would sweep across northern Europe overnight Tuesday, taking in northern Germany, Poland and Scandinavia.

Authorities say the ash can damage planes and stop engines, but Ryanair flew a plane through Scottish airspace and said it detected no ash on the aircraft.

It accused British and Irish authorities of over-reacting but reluctantly cancelled its flights to and from Scotland - almost 70 in total.

The growing chaos threatens planning for events ranging from the G8 summit to the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United which takes place at London's Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Barcelona said its squad would fly to London on Tuesday, two days earlier than planned, due to the "uncertainty" caused by the volcano.

European Union transport commissioner Siim Kallas played down fears that the situation could get as bad as 2010, when thousands of travellers from around the world were left stranded.

"We do not at this stage anticipate widespread airspace closure and prolonged disruption like we saw last year," Kallas told a news conference.

Iceland's Meteorological Office said activity at the volcano had slowed Tuesday and the ash plume had overnight dropped from its peak altitude of 20 kilometres (12 miles) to between three and five kilometres.

The most high-profile victim of the chaos was US President Barack Obama, who was forced to leave Ireland for London a day ahead of schedule on Monday night to avoid being stranded there.

Obama is among the leaders of the world's major industrialised nations due to attend a summit in northwest France from Thursday which could also be disrupted if the cloud drifts further south.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was meanwhile forced to cancel a visit to Britain scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, his spokesman said.

When Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano erupted last year, the ash plume arrived first in Britain before spreading across the rest of Europe. Many airlines were deeply unhappy at the time at being forced to halt their flights.

Ryanair revealed Monday that last year's airspace shutdown cost it nearly 30 million euros (42 million dollars) and railed against the current closures.

It said its one-hour "verification" flight in Scotland's airspace on Tuesday showed no visible volcanic ash cloud.

"The absence of any volcanic ash in the atmosphere supports Ryanair's stated view that there is no safety threat to aircraft in this mythical 'red zone' which is another misguided invention by the UK Met Office and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority)," the Irish airline said in a statement.

British transport minister Philip Hammond said the ash plume was a natural phenomenon "but the UK is now much better prepared to deal with an ash eruption than last year."

The CAA no longer issues blanket bans on flights; instead, it identifies areas of high, medium and low density ash and asks airlines wishing to operate in high or medium density ash to request permission to fly.

burs-dk-ar/gj/co

 

 

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Recruitment Genius: Processing Partner

    £15000 - £19200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Processing Partner is require...

    Recruitment Genius: PPC Manager - SW London

    £34000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist travel agent ba...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower