UPDATE 3-Italy fines Ryanair, ash cloud threatens UK, Ireland

* ENAC says almost all airlines helped passengers

* Britain says may face 3-day partial airspace closure

* Ireland says airports open until Sunday

(Adds Irish Aviation Authority on Irish airports)

ROME, May 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Italy’s ENAC civil aviation
authority fined Irish carrier Ryanair (RYA.I: ) 3 million euros
($3.81 million) for failing to help passengers stranded by
Icelandic ash, and Britain and Ireland braced for more potential
flight disruption.

In a statement on Saturday, ENAC cited 178 cases in which
Ryanair failed to meet its obligation to assist passengers
between April 17 and 22, when airlines cancelled hundreds of
flights across Europe as the volcanic ash cloud shut airspace.

ENAC said Ryanair passengers stuck in Rome had to be helped
by its own staff, members of Italy’s Civil Protection agency and
employees of the Rome airports operator.

In contrast, almost all the other airlines provided adequate
assistance to stranded ticket-holders, ENAC said.

No one was immediately available for comment at Ryanair.

In London, the government said parts of British airpsace
might have to close from Sunday until Tuesday because of a fresh
cloud of ash from the Icelandic volcano.

Different parts of the airspace including the southeast,
where Europe’s busiest airport Heathrow is located, are likely
to be closed at different times, the Transport Department said.

“Due to continuing volcanic activity in Iceland and
prevailing weather conditions, there is — if the volcano
continues to erupt at current levels — a risk of UK airspace
closures,” it said in a statement.

If restrictions become necessary, an announcement will be
made by the National Air Traffic Service, it added.

The ash cloud is also drifting towards Ireland from the
North Atlantic and is likely to be over the west coast of the
country early on Sunday morning, the Irish Aviation Authority
(IAA) said in a statement. It will cover the rest of the country
later in the day.

The IAA said Sligo, Donegal, and Ireland West (Knock)
airports would be open until 0600 GMT while other Irish airports
would be open until at least 1200 GMT.

“The IAA is organising observation flights for tomorrow to
check on the level of ash concentrate,” it said, adding it would
provide another update on Sunday morning.

The spread of ash from an erupting volcano under the
Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland grounded much of European
air traffic for nearly a week in mid-April. Airlines had to
cancel around 100,000 flights, stranding millions of passengers.

Since then the ash has periodically forced the short-term
closure of parts of airspace in countries across Europe.

British Transport Minister Philip Hammand said on Saturday
that from now on five-day — rather than the previous 18-hour —
ash prediction charts would be made available to airlines and
the public on the Met Office forecaster’s website.

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(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Daniel Flynn in Rome
and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Dublin; editing by Myra MacDonald)

UPDATE 3-Italy fines Ryanair, ash cloud threatens UK, Ireland