Irish airports reopen, Britain eases flight ban after ash alert

6th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ireland began reopening its airports Thursday after the latest shutdown caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano which sparked air travel chaos in Europe last month.

Britain meanwhile lifted its flight ban across most parts of Scotland at 1:00 am (0000 GMT), and said restrictions in Northern Ireland and the rest of the country were likely to be removed in several hours.

The announcement by air authorities in both countries signalled an end to a second airspace shutdown this week, which started in most places early Wednesday, that caused fresh travel misery for thousands of travellers.

Europe's skies were closed for up to a week last month after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, but were reopened after emergency talks between European governments, airlines and regulators.

The aerial shutdown was the biggest in Europe since World War II and prevented millions of people from travelling.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said the country's airspace would reopen gradually from 4:00 am (0300 GMT) Thursday, with Dublin airport among the first to start up again.

"The current ash cloud is moving south westwards and airport restrictions will be lifted according to its progress," said the aviation regulator in a statement.

Aer Lingus said it planned to operate all transatlantic services on Thursday, and most of its short-haul flights.

Its low-fares rival Ryanair said all services to Dublin would operate throughout the day, while flights would begin to use other airports from midday onwards.

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the flight ban in most of Scotland -- including the airport in Glasgow, which is the country's biggest city -- had been lifted.

The air safety watchdog said it hoped to end restrictions on Northern Ireland and the rest of British airspace at 7:00 am (0600 GMT).

"However, we would caution that the ash cloud is dynamic and continues to change shape and the situation may change again," the CAA warned in a statement.

Mabel McGeachie, 62, was caught up in the chaos on Wednesday when her easyJet flight from Glasgow to Malaga in Spain was cancelled.

"We are feeling disappointed as we were looking forward to it, and I don't think we'll be able to rearrange it," she said.

Wednesday's airspace shutdowns followed a closure of Irish, Northern Irish and some Scottish airspace for several hours the previous day, which caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines meanwhile warned ash would likely play havoc with British air travel for "the foreseeable future."

"Our advice to passengers is to listen to updates and contact their airline before leaving home if they are concerned their travel plans may be affected," he said.

In Iceland itself Tuesday, the Eyjafjoell volcano spewed more ash than in recent days, although the level remained much lower than when the eruption began three weeks ago, an Icelandic geophysicist told AFP.

"The plume has increased. It is black... There is more ash in the plume and it is (rising) higher," Sigrun Hreinsdottir of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik said Wednesday.

Eurocontrol, the continent's air traffic control co-ordinator, said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe had been cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.


© 2010 AFP

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