Iceland volcano brings more air travel chaos to Europe

17th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ash clouds caused by a surge in activity from Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano brought fresh travel chaos to thousands of passengers Monday, as airports shut in London, Ireland and the Netherlands.

London Heathrow, Europe's busiest air hub, and London Gatwick, were hit with a new round of delays and cancellations, as other airports inside the no-fly zone stayed shut until at least 1200 GMT.

Amsterdam, one of Europe's key air interchanges, and Rotterdam airports in the Netherlands were both closed from 0400 GMT to 1200 GMT as the ash cloud moved east.

Around 1,000 flights in Europe would be cancelled, said the intergovernmental agency coordinating air traffic control, Eurocontrol.

Heathrow and Gatwick reopened at 0600 GMT after a six-hour shutdown, but all airports in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, Scotland's busiest airport, Edinburgh, plus Aberdeen and Inverness stayed shut until at least 1200 GMT.

Meanwhile, Wales's main airport Cardiff was closed, as was Swansea.

In England, Bristol in the southwest was also shut. London's other main airports City, Luton and Stansted were open but advising passengers to check with their airlines for fresh updates.

The National Air Traffic Services, which manages British airspace, said: "The volcanic ash cloud continues to change shape and two key areas affect operations stretching from the south of England to Northern Ireland, and over much of mainland Scotland to the Shetland Isles."

Eurocontrol said it expected a lower than usual 28,000 flights in Europe Monday.

"This is approximately 1,000 less than on a normal day, and is due to the expected impact of the current closure of airspace in the south-east of the UK and in the Netherlands," it said in a statement.

On Sunday, Eurocontrol said, disruptions in Ireland and the northwest of Britain resulted in a loss of some 400 flights.

The latest ash closures came at the beginning of a week where air travel disruption was already expected due to a five-day strike by British Airways cabin crew set to kick off Tuesday.

Europe's skies were partially closed for up to a week in April following the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, in the biggest shutdown of the continent's airspace for more than 50 years.

In Ireland, Dublin airport was to reopen at 1100 GMT after a 17-hour shut-down as the cloud moved east.

Sligo airport was to reopen at 1300 GMT, with Donegal to follow at 1300 GMT.

The volcanic dust at more concentrated levels presents a danger to plane engines, though some industry officials have complained that the safety measures and airport closures have been excessive.

The international airline industry body, IATA, has estimated last month's shutdown cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.4 billion euros, 0.7 billion pounds).

© 2010 AFP

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