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Thousands face volcanic ash cloud flight cancellations

Posted on: May 24, 2011

Eurocontrol’s Brian Flynn explains how the ash cloud is being monitored as passengers wait at airports in northern Europe

Thousands of passengers have had their flights cancelled because of drifting ash from an Icelandic volcano.

Airports affected include Londonderry, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Durham Tees Valley, Newcastle and Carlisle, air traffic services company Nats said.

The UK’s emergency response committee, Cobra, is meeting to discuss the knock-on effects of the ash cloud.

Air traffic management body Eurocontrol said about 500 flights were cancelled across Europe on Tuesday.

UK air traffic control service Nats said the ash cloud would continue to affect flights from some airports in Scotland and northern England from 1900 BST on Tuesday until 0100 BST on Wednesday.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, who will lead the talks, said although there would be widespread disruption for Scottish airports, it was unlikely to last long.

He told the BBC he expected Edinburgh and Glasgow airports to be clear by Tuesday afternoon, and northern Scottish airports by Wednesday morning.

“At the moment the model suggests that disruption later in the week is likely to be limited, but of course the weather patterns are changing all the time,” he said.

The Met Office said the ash had reached northern Scotland and would spread across much of the UK by the end of the day.

But forecasters said changing wind patterns made it hard to predict its exact path and concentrations would vary between regions.

The following airlines have announced cancellations:

  • British Airways will not operate any flights to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle on Tuesday
  • KLM cancelled flights to and from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Newcastle as well as from Durham Tees Valley Airport
  • Aer Lingus cancelled 12 flights to and from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh
  • Flybe cancelled 11 flights to and from Scotland
  • BMI has cancelled all flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow for the rest of Tuesday
  • Loganair, based in Glasgow, has cancelled 38 flights. Only inter-island routes in Orkney are unaffected
  • Eastern Airways will not be operating any services in or out of Scottish airspace
  • Easyjet has cancelled flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Newcastle until 1900 BST
  • Ryanair has cancelled all flights to and from Scotland for the rest of Tuesday

Minor air traffic disruptions were also reported in Norway and a small part of Denmark.

Despite later cancelling its flights, the Irish carrier Ryanair claimed it had made a test flight through ash over Scotland and challenged a ruling some flights should be grounded.

Ryanair said its 90-minute flight at 41,000ft showed there was “no visible volcanic ash cloud or evidence of ash on the airframe, wings or engines”.

Ryanair said the “red zone” over Scottish airspace where ash has been classified “high-density” was invented by the Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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