The airline crisis deepened today when the UK flight ban was extended to at least 1am tomorrow.
Announcing the further restriction of flights in UK controlled airspace, air traffic control company Nats said the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland was “currently spread across the UK”.
Nats added: There may be limited opportunity in Orkney and Shetland from 7pm today for some flights to operate under individual co-ordination with air traffic control.
“However, it is most unlikely that many flights will operate today and anyone hoping to travel should contact their airline before travelling to the airport.
“We will continue to monitor Met Office information and review our arrangements in line with that. We will advise further arrangements at about 3pm today.”
Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis, said: “Based on the latest assessment by the Met Office, flights to and from most airports in northern Europe will not resume today. The forecast for tomorrow is not encouraging.
“I am in constant contact with both the Met Office and Nats. They are continuing to work with airlines to ensure they are ready to fully exploit any respite in conditions which could allow some flights to operate.”
He went on: “Further test flights will take place today in the UK to help understand the extent of the impact of the ash cloud. I wish to establish, as a matter of urgency, whether some safe flight paths can be identified and opened up to flights within the area affected by ash.
“Test flights are also being undertaken in other European countries. I am in contact with other European transport ministers on this issue, and urgent discussions are taking place with European and international regulatory agencies. We want to be able to resume flights as soon as possible, but safety remains my paramount concern.”
Adonis added that everything possible was being done to help passengers.
He added: “Key transport providers have laid on extra services – both East Coast and Virgin Trains are running extra rail services between London and Scotland while Eurostar, Eurotunnel, cross-channel ferry operators and international coach operators are all also carrying many more passengers than usual.
“We will continue to work closely with transport providers to ensure as many extra services as possible are being run.”
He continued: “Stranded passengers with return tickets on EU airlines have rights of assistance, including food and accommodation, and should contact their airline directly.
“British embassies and consulates around the world are providing consular assistance to those that need it, visiting airports and working with the local authorities to help stranded UK citizens.
“The Foreign Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) contains advice for stranded UK citizens. UK citizens needing consular assistance can contact the embassy in the country they are in; contact details are available on the Foreign Office website.
“ An emergency number – 020 7008 0000 – is available for relatives of stranded UK citizens who are concerned about the safety or well-being of their loved ones.
“I am in constant discussions with all the key agencies, and the airline industry, and I will provide a further update later today.”