European air traffic hit by growing disruption: controllers

8th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

European air traffic faced growing disruption Saturday as an ash cloud from an Iceland volcano threatened to close airports as far east as Spain's Barcelona or Marseille in France, controllers warned.

"During the day, the area affected by volcanic ash is expected to extend from Iceland, south to Portugal and possibly as far east as Barcelona and Marseille," European air traffic control monitors Eurocontrol said in a statement.

"Ash eruptions are ongoing and the area of potential ash contamination is expanding," it stressed.

Transatlantic flights, being re-routed around the area owing to different concentrations of ash particles and predicted engine tolerance levels at different altitudes, were already experiencing "substantial delays," Brussels-based Eurocontrol warned.

Approximately 25,000 flights were expected to cross the skies on Saturday, well down from more than 30,000 on Friday.

"The reduction of available airspace is also impacting flights arriving in or departing from the Iberian peninsula and delays could be expected," it underlined of the skies most at risk off Portugal and Spain.

Spain's airport and air traffic authority Aena said that 15 airports in northern Spain would remain closed until at least 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Saturday because of the ash cloud.

Icelandic meteorologists and geophysicists warned late on Thursday that the erupting Eyjafjoell volcano would emit a larger ash cloud after renewed activity.

The ash cloud was predicted to reach up to 35,000 feet (some 10,500 metres), far higher than in recent days and thus affecting more overflying planes.

Last month the Icelandic volcanic caused travel chaos, with airspaces closed over several European nations.

It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected. The airline industry said it lost some 2.5 billion euros.

© 2010 AFP

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