London's Heathrow airport says open after ash closure
London's Heathrow airport said Tuesday it had reopened after a five-day airspace shutdown and a first flight had arrived from Vancouver.
A spokesman said the airport -- the biggest and busiest in Europe -- reopened just before 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) after the British air safety watchdog announced shortly beforehand a gradual lifting of flight restrictions.
"I can confirm Heathrow has now reopened, a first BA flight from Vancouver has landed," he said.
A British Airways spokeswoman confirmed that its flight BA84 from Canada had touched down just before 2100 GMT at the airport's Terminal 5. She said it was the first flight to land at the airport since it reopened.
BA added more than 20 long-haul flights were due to land at Heathrow or Gatwick airport -- also in London -- late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Some others tried to land earlier but had been diverted to European airports after failing to get permission to touch down, said the spokeswoman.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced earlier that British airspace would be gradually reopened from 2100 GMT, after experts concluded that plane engines could withstand flying through the ash when the density was low.
"The new guidance allows a phased reintroduction from 2200 (local time) tonight of much of the airspace which is currently closed due to the volcanic ash plume over the UK," said the CAA in a statement.
Air authorities introduced a total flight ban in Britain at midday (1100 GMT) on Thursday after a cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland floated over the country.
Restrictions had already been lifted earlier over Scotland and parts of northern England.
The ash cloud drifted over Europe and triggered the biggest airspace shutdown across the continent since World War II, leaving hundreds of thousands of air travellers stranded abroad.
© 2010 AFP