Airlines grounded hundreds of flights on Tuesday after a plume of ash from a volcano in Iceland blanketed Britain and touched Scandinavia 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, British Airways was the first to suspend flights from London to Scotland.
Dutch airline KLM, Ireland’s Aer Lingus and budget airline easyJet followed suit, while air traffic authorities warned disruption from the Grimsvoetn volcano could spread to airports in northern England and Northern Ireland.
“Most airlines have cancelled flights today — 252 flights,” said Brian Flynn, head of operations at the Brussels-based Eurocontrol.
Low-cost airline Ryanair however flew a plane through Scottish airspace and said they detected no ash on the aircraft, hitting out at British and Irish authorities for over-reacting. The ash cloud also caused minor air traffic disruption in Norway and closed a small part of Denmark’s airspace, and Eurocontrol warned that the ash cloud could continue southwards to France and Spain.
Authorities say the ash can damage planes and stop engines. But, Europe’s 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,” he said. (AFP)