IRISH airline passengers are this morning facing the first ash cloud flight disruptions after Aer Lingus was forced to cancel a dozen flights.
Despite the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre’s (VAAC) update last night predicting no disruptions to Irish air space until this evening, the airline said safety issues mean flights to Scotland cannot be risked.
An Aer Lingus spokes- person said as the ash cloud is “forecast to encroach” on Scottish air- space later today, flights from Dublin, Shannon and Cork to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen have been cancelled.
Refund and “change for free” requests can be filed at aerlingus.com, with the airline due to inform passengers of any more cancellations by email and mobile text messages.
Confirmation of the first cancellations, which have brought back memories of last year’s ash cloud crisis, came as the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) claimed there would be no disruption to Irish airports or airspace before this evening.
It made the prediction after advice from the London-based VAAC, which is also advising Met Eireann, the Department of Transport, airlines, airports and other European air traffic service providers.
The VAAC has warned of a “strong possibility” parts of the ash cloud could enter Scottish and Irish airspace later today.
While the vast majority of flights in and out of Irish airports are scheduled to operate as normal today, the situation for the remainder of the week is still unclear.
“Due to unstable meteorological conditions, it is not possible to identify with certainty the movements of the ash cloud beyond [a 24-hour] timeframe,” a VAAC spokes- person explained.
The IAA has also stressed that the situation is “very fluid” and subject to change at relatively short notice.
The IAA said the path of the ash cloud was being monitored closely and Irish airspace could be closed if there was a deterioration over the coming days. It acknowledged that there is a possibility of some disruption to flights later this week.
All passengers booked on flights this week are being advised to check with their airlines on a regular basis for updates.
Due to the ash cloud fears, US president Barack Obama travelled to Britain last night instead of this morning, as scheduled.
Eurocontrol, the European organisation with responsibility for the safety of air navigation, said it was difficult to predict the impact of the volcanic ash cloud on any location until about 12 hours before a scheduled flight due to a number of varying factors.
Iceland’s largest active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting on Saturday for the first time since 2004, raising fears of similar chaos which caused wide- spread cancellation of flights across Europe last year.
On that occasion, an ash plume from another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, closed large parts of European airspace for six days.
It is estimated that last year’s disruption cost airlines up to €1.2 billion.
All flights in Icelandic airspace have been cancelled since the weekend as a result of the largest eruption of Grimsvotn in a century, with most of the thick cloud of ash having already fallen on parts of Iceland, including the capital, Reykjavik.
Meanwhile, EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas, said the European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) has been activated to assess what he described as “an evolving situation”.
“Volcanoes don’t obey any rules and this is a situation that is evolving by the hour,” the EU transport commissioner said.
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