Ireland, Britain eye new ash flight bans

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Ireland may have to re-impose a flight ban as ash from an Icelandic volcano drifts towards it, while a small section of British airspace will be closed, air authorities said Monday.

The new alerts should not disrupt aircraft overflying Ireland from Britain or Europe, or southern British airports including Heathrow, Europe's busiest air hub, authorities in the two countries said.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it had "informed Irish-based airlines that it is concerned that Irish airports may be impacted by the drift south of the volcanic ash cloud caused by the north easterly winds.

"Current information from the Volcanic Ash Advice Centre (VAAC) suggests that a 'no fly zone' may have to be imposed over Ireland tomorrow that may affect Dublin, Shannon and some regional airports," it said.

Airspace across Europe was closed down for up to a week last month after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull, but was re-opened after emergency talks between European governments, airlines and regulators.

The IAA said it awaited an update from the London-based VAAC -- one of nine volcanic ash advice centres around the globe -- from 1900 GMT and will make a decision then concerning operations at Irish airports and Irish airspace.

"Over-flights of Ireland from the UK and Europe are not expected to be impacted tomorrow and southern UK Airports (Heathrow etc. ) are not expected to be impacted."

Meanwhile Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) warned airlines that "increased concentrations of volcanic ash in the atmosphere are forecast to cause limited airspace closures in Scotland" on Monday evening and Tuesday.

From 1700 GMT Monday airspace over the Outer Hebrides "will be closed to all operations following Met Office advice that concentrations of ash in the atmosphere are expected to exceed the safe levels agreed by manufacturers."

The international airline industry body, IATA, said the shutdown cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) and called on governments to pick up at least part of the cost, angered by their handling of the crisis.

Eurocontrol, the continent's air traffic control coordinator, 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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