Volcanic ash could force the cancellation of up to 500 commercial flights in parts of the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, the European air traffic agency said today.
Between 200 and 250 flights had already been cancelled, Eurocontrol said. There are just over 30,000 flights within Europe on average every day at this time of the year.
Ash from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano has already forced President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland, and has raised fears of a repeat of huge travel disruptions in Europe last year when ash from the Eyjafjalljokull volcano stranded millions.
A Eurocontrol spokesman said he did not expect Mr Obama’s European tour to be further affected and authorities have said they do not anticipate the massive grounding of flights that followed last year’s eruption. They say procedures have been improved since then and the cloud is currently not expected to move over continental Europe.
However Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said strong winds over Scotland was making it hard to predict the direction in which the ash would move.
Budget airline Ryanair said it did not believe there was a need to cancel all flights between Ireland and Scotland, and said it would meet with regulators to discuss the issue.
Norwegian airport operator Avinor said the ash disrupted traffic to and from Stavanger and Karmoey airports and is expected to spread to southern Norway later.
Danish authorities say they have closed airspace in north-western Denmark. There is no airport in that area, but the ash was causing delays and some cancellations at Copenhagen airport.