WRAPUP 3-Ash cloud grounds flights in Scotland and Ireland

* Problems could herald summer of disruption to air travel

* Iceland volcanic ash likely to hit flights Thursday too

(Updates with latest from UK aviation officials; forecasters)

By Padraic Halpin and Michael Holden

DUBLIN/LONDON, May 5 (BestGrowthStock) – A cloud of abrasive
volcanic ash drifting south from Iceland disrupted flights to
and from Ireland and Scotland anew on Wednesday.

Two airports serving Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, were
closed until at least 1800 GMT, while flights from the Irish
capital Dublin face restrictions until at least 2300 GMT.

The latest disruption signalled that travel hold-ups would
continue into the summer holiday period because of ash being
blown from the same volcano in Iceland that caused mayhem for 10
million travellers last month.

The European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said about 300
of 29,000 scheduled flights were likely to be cancelled across
Europe on Wednesday. “The situation is not expected to improve
in this area during the day,” the agency said in a statement.

“The whole of Ireland, west Scotland and northwest England
could be affected, with risk to operations at Manchester and
Liverpool airports,” it continued.

In addition, according to Eurocontrol, roughly 900 flights
in Greek airspace would be cancelled assuming a general strike
in Greece against austerity plans lasted until midnight.

ASH CLOUD STAYING?

Britain’s official weather forecaster, the Met Office, said
predictions indicated the ash would remain over much of Ireland,
Scotland and western England into Thursday and would continue to
move south.

British Airways (BAY.L: ) said it was cancelling all flights
to and from the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh until
1800 GMT.

Irish budget airline Ryanair (RYA.I: ) also cancelled flights
to and from Glasgow Prestwick and the Northern Irish cities of
Belfast and Derry until 2300 GMT.

It also warned that services at the English airports of
Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester could be affected.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said, based on current
forecasts, it did not expect problems in the southeast, where
the major airports serving London are located.

“The situation remains changeable, so passengers expecting
to travel today and tomorrow from airports in Scotland, Northern
Ireland, the North West of England, Wales and the West Country
should contact their airlines to check whether their flight is
operating,” the CAA said in a statement.

Much of European air traffic was grounded last month because
of the spread of ash from the erupting volcano under the
Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland. Some 100,000 flights were
cancelled and millions of passengers stranded.

Tuesday was the first test of a European system of
progressive closures, including partial no-fly zones, introduced
after the ash cloud prompted a blanket ban that was criticised
by airlines forced to ground thousands of flights in April.

European transport ministers have agreed to set safety
limits for flying through the ash, which can paralyse jet
engines, and to unify European airspace.

Last month’s airspace closures cost Europe’s airlines 1.5
billion to 2.5 billion euros ($2 billion-$3.3 billion), the
European Commission has estimated.

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(Additional reporting by Keith Weir in London, Philip
Blenkinsop in Brussels, and Andras Gergely in Dublin; Editing by
Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)

WRAPUP 3-Ash cloud grounds flights in Scotland and Ireland