Flight misery continues in Europe

17th April 2010, by Chris Gill

Ash cloud over Europe

Ash cloud over Europe

Last week’s eruption of a volcano in Iceland is causing further misery for UK travellers, as flights in and out of the country continue to be grounded. There is little sign of that ban being completely lifted for the next few days, with flights now cancelled until Monday at the earliest.

The current position is that a lack of wind, or wind direction change, is keeping the plume of volcanic ash over northern Europe. The fallout particles of rock and sand that it contains still pose a threat to aircraft engines. There may be some good news though: tests are being carried out in various countries to see if it’s safe for aircraft to fly.

The cloud is moving slowly eastwards, which has enabled limited flights to resume in the north – but much of Europe’s air network is at a standstill. Extensions to the no-fly deadline have left many passengers stranded abroad, while others due to fly out are staying at home. Skiers hoping to be abroad next week also face cancellation or lengthy alterations to their journeys.

Some tour operators have been able to organise bus and ferry transfers to get guests to and from their holiday destinations, while many independent travellers are attempting lengthy rail journeys. But as to be expected, the ferry and rail services are heavily oversubscribed; booking is necessary at present.  Foot passenger bookings are now being accepted on Calais-Dover routes, though, where staff have worked flat out to keep services running continuously to get passengers home. (If you have a story to tell about getting home or not, you can add it to the relevant forum thread here.

If you are due to fly, the airlines are advising passengers not to turn up at the airports but to check for the latest updates through either their dedicated call centres or online services.

The volcano responsible for all this disruption had lain dormant for over 200 years. Its spectacular eruption on 14 April is likely also to be remembered for producing the most disruption to the airline industry in decades.

UPDATE 19/4/10

The latest reports (Monday 19 April) from NATS (air traffic control) have confirmed that airspace in Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England will reopen on Tuesday.

The decision follows five days of chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud. It means that mainland Scottish airports could resume flights, and that there may be a lifting of restrictions further south later on Tuesday. Other European countries have also begun to reopen their airspace.

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