UPDATE 4-Italy fines Ryanair, ash threatens UK and Ireland

* Italy says almost all airlines helped passengers

* Britain says may face 3-day partial airspace closure

* No-fly zone to be imposed over parts of Northern Ireland

(Adds British air traffic authority statement)

ROME, May 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Italy fined Irish airline Ryanair
(RYA.I: ) 3 million euros ($3.81 million) on Saturday for failing
to help passengers stranded by Icelandic volcano ash, and
Britain and Ireland were on alert for more possible flight
disruption.

The Italian ENAC civil aviation authority 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 in a statement that 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.

Britain’s National Air Traffic Service said due to the ash
cloud rapidly encroaching on Northern Ireland, a no-fly zone had
been imposed for parts of its airspace from 2400 GMT until 0600
GMT on Sunday, although Belfast airport would remain open.

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

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 that 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 4-Italy fines Ryanair, ash threatens UK and Ireland