Flights resume in Scotland, but not rest of Britain

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Flights resumed in Scotland and Northern Ireland on Tuesday, but a ban remained in place over the rest of Britain at least until early Wednesday, aviation authorities said.

Initial plans to resume flights from London later in the day were shelved, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown said airlines were seizing the "window of opportunity" to fly passengers into and out of the country.

In an afternoon update, the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said the volcanic eruption in Iceland remained "dynamic", adding that Met Office weather forecasters suggested that "the situation will continue to be variable."

"Part of Scottish and Northern Irish airspace... will continue to be available from 1900 (1800 GMT) today to 0100 (0000 GMT) tomorrow," it said, adding that restrictions will remain in place over the rest of Britain airspace below 20,000 feet.

Flights above the volcanic ash cloud, at an altitude over 20,000 feet (six kilometres), were also permitted, it added.

"We are taking advantage of the window of opportunity, but our first priority is that passengers will always be safe," Brown said, adding: "We know that further volcanic ash will be in the clouds over the next day or two."

The first flight took off from Glasgow airport for Stornoway, in Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands, at 7:15 am (0615 GMT), some 15 minutes after Scottish airspace reopened.

US businessman Jim Welsh was hopeful as he checked in, ironically, for a flight to Iceland, where the volcanic eruption occurred last week.

"I'm thrilled I can get this flight. I'm planning on getting a flight to Boston from Iceland," said the 52-year-old.

"I was in London for business and I was supposed to leave Heathrow on Thursday. I travelled by train to Glasgow on Thursday night but couldn't get on the flights leaving here on Friday," he said.

In other developments, holiday airline Thomson Airways said it had carried out six "successful" test flights, taking off from Iceland and landing at British airports including Manchester in northern England.

"No technical difficulties were experienced during the flights and our engineering team have confirmed that there has been no damage to any of the aircraft," the airline said.

Separately, the Scottish government announced it was sending a ferry to Scandinavia to pick up travellers stranded there.

© 2010 AFP

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