The UK flights’ ban was today extended until at least 7am tomorrow as the cost to the travel industry of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud crisis grew.
The further extension to the restriction of flights within controlled UK airspace was announced by air traffic control company Nats.
Nats said today: “Conditions around the movement of the layers of the volcanic ash cloud over the UK remain dynamic.
“We are maintaining close dialogue with the Met Office and with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in respect of the international civil aviation policy we follow in applying restrictions to use of airspace. We are currently awaiting CAA guidance.”
Nats added: “We are working closely with government, airports and airlines, and airframe and aero engine manufacturers to get a better understanding of the effects of the ash cloud and to seek solutions.
“We will, of course, continue to make best use of any breaks in the ash cloud to offer opportunities to airlines as they arise. 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.”
Nats said it would continue to monitor Met Office information and review its arrangements in line with that. A further announcement about flights would be around 9pm tonight.
The further extension of the restrictions means the UK, with the exception of a very few services that have been able to run, has been a “no-fly zone” since around mid-day last Thursday.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wanted airspace to open up as quickly as possible, while Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg bemoaned the fact that his children were stuck in central Spain unable to fly home.
As experts put the cost so far to the European travel industry at more than €1bn, the British Foreign Office said it was doing everything possible to help the many thousands of UK travellers unable to get home from abroad.
British Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said further test flights were taking place today in the UK “to help understand the extent of the impact of the ash cloud”.
He said he wanted to establish “as a matter of urgency” whether some safe flight paths could be identified.
Speaking on Sky News, he said the ash cloud was an “unprecedented” event which presented an “immediate and serious danger to jet engines”.