Airlines hit as ash cloud reaches UK

A ROW between airlines and aviation officials broke out yesterday over fears the volcanic ash cloud blowing in from Iceland could cause a repeat of last summer’s mass flight disruptions.

Planes due to fly to and from Scotland were grounded yesterday, including flights from London airports. However, late last night, UK air traffic control service NATS said flights would not be affected from today.

Irish carrier Ryanair had blasted the UK Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the creation of “red zone” areas designated as unsafe for aircraft to fly in.

“There is no safety threat to aircraft in this mythical ‘red zone’, which is another misguided invention by the UK Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority,” the airline said.

The operator was amongst several carriers in the UK to cancel flights, including BA, easyJet and KLM.

Shares of airline firms slumped on the news, as well as on fears of further disruption.

Ryanair had conducted a test flight in Scottish airspace yesterday morning. The airline claimed it had flown within the red zone and had found “no evidence of volcanic ash”.

But authorities last night questioned the accuracy of Ryanair’s test flight.

“Radar tracking has shown that at no point did the Ryanair flight fly directly through the notified area of high ash contamination over Scotland so it is unsurprising that it found no ash,” a department for transport spokesperson said.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond rushed to calm fears the impact of the eruption would cause a repeat of last year’s travel chaos.

“We are in a much better place this year because we have worked with airlines and regulators to build a regime that puts safety first, but with far more flexibility,” he said.