New ash cloud disrupts UK, Ireland air travel

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

DUBLIN (BestGrowthStock) – A new cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland triggered fresh disruptions in European air travel on Sunday, as Britain and Ireland shut down major airports and a no-fly zone was imposed across southern parts of UK airspace.

The no-fly zone will affect Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and Gatwick from 8 p.m. EDT to 2 a.m. EDT on Monday as the high density of a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland drifts south, the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) said.

“The high density ash cloud continues to move further south in the early hours of tomorrow morning,” it said in a statement.

Ash from the same volcano wreaked havoc on European air traffic last month, when some 100,000 flights were canceled and left millions of passengers stranded. Airlines lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association said.

Airports included in the no-fly zone include Heathrow, Gatwick and London City, as well as all airfields in Northern Ireland and airports in parts of Scotland, NATS said.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said three northwestern airports were closed from early Sunday and hub Dublin would be shut from 2 p.m. EDT until at least 7 a.m. EDT on Monday, but indicated that the disruption might not last very long.

“The outlook later tomorrow looks better, I wouldn’t be too optimistic for the early part of the day but the later part of the day looks better and as the week goes on, it should improve,” IAA Chief Executive Eamon Brennan told national broadcaster RTE.

North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected despite the cloud drifting over the country. Cork and Kerry, as well as Shannon — an important stopover for flights to the United States — are open until further notice.

Western airports Sligo and Ireland West (Knock), shut on Sunday, would re-open at 4 a.m. EDT while Donegal would remain closed until at least 7 a.m. EDT. Other airports, Galway and Waterford, would reopen at 1 a.m. EDT, the IAA said.

“As a result of the disruption to UK airports we are running four additional services on Monday 17th May,” Eurostar said, adding that an extra 3,500 seats would be available on routes linking London and Paris.

British rail operator Virgin Trains said it would provide an extra 7,000 seats through Monday, mainly on the Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and London to Glasgow routes.

The UK government had warned that parts of British airspace might have to close until Tuesday with different areas including the southeast, Heathrow is located, likely to be closed at different times.

Teeside, Leeds-Bradford, Blackpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Doncaster, Carlisle, Humberside and East Midlands airports fall within the no-fly zone, NATS said. Airports in the Isle of Man will also be affected.

TEST FLIGHTS

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland is continuing to erupt with no signs of the explosive activity about to end and an ash plume reaching heights of 25,000 feet, Britain’s Met Office said.

“The ash cloud is expected to clear the UK during Tuesday as southwesterly winds become established during Monday,” it said.

The Met said that two aircraft, one from the UK and one from Germany, had flown to investigate the ash plume.

“In many areas the cloud was clearly visible to the naked eye and was described as “a grey-black layer,”” it said. “The pilots … reported that “one should not fly into this layer.””

Elsewhere in Europe, German airlines’ association said no restriction of German air traffic was expected due to the ash, and German airlines were operating flights as normal.

In the Netherlands, an Amsterdam Schiphol airport official said there were no expected closures in Dutch airspace.

Stock Investing

(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Caroline Copley in London, Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt and Amsterdam bureau; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

New ash cloud disrupts UK, Ireland air travel