Europe braces for ash cloud chaos

THE SPREAD of volcanic ash across Europe is unlikely to affect flights out of Ireland today — but an expected change of wind could cause extensive disruption later in the week.

Several airlines, including Easyjet, Aer Arann and Jet2.com, have already been forced to cancel flights to and from the North since Iceland’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting on Saturday, sending a plume of smoke 12 miles into the air.

Yesterday, Ryanair was forced to cancel all flights to and from Scotland as the ash cloud forced Scottish airspace to close. Aer Lingus also cancelled 20 flights to and from Scotland today.

Eurocontrol, the organisation responsible for air navigation safety in Europe, said that, in total, about 500 flights were cancelled across Europe because of the ash.

Ryanair objected to the decision to close Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports, saying there was no basis for the flight cancellations.

Last night, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said there is unlikely to be any impact on Irish airspace for at least the next 24 hours.

“All Irish airports remain open,” a spokesman said.

“However, a small number of European destinations may be affected by the ash cloud, thereby impacting on flights to or from Irish airports.

“Passengers planning to travel by air over the coming days are advised to regularly check their airline websites and the IAA website in advance of going to the airport. Passengers should also check the status of the airports they are travelling to.”

The IAA is monitoring the situation and is in contact with the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, Met Éireann, Department of Transport, airlines, airports and European air traffic service providers.

The Irish Travel Agents Association has advised passengers affected by flight cancellations to contact their travel agents and said customers in affected areas should not turn up at airports unless told to do so.

Last night, an Aer Lingus spokesman said that based on available information, they do not anticipate volcanic ash-related disruption.

“We are monitoring the situation on a constant basis, and will update customers via SMS, email, aerlingus.com and the broadcast media should this situation change,” a spokesman said.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has confirmed the ash plume was drifting mostly southward at a height of three to five miles. The plume’s height has decreased from its maximum height of nine miles on Sunday. In its first day, the volcano emitted 10,000 tonnes of ash every second. Yesterday, it was 100 tonnes every second.

“The intensity of the eruption has decreased markedly,” said Matthew Roberts of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, adding that the height of the ash plume had fallen to about six miles.


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