Ash grounds Scottish and Irish flights

ICELAND’S volcano grounded flights out of Ireland and Scotland yesterday, as a fresh ash plume again disrupted the holiday plans of thousands of passengers.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) closed airspace in Ireland and Scotland, affecting major airports and international flights after the Eyjafjallajokul volcano continued to spew ash into the air.

A number of airlines, including Aer Lingus, Ryanair and bmi cancelled services yesterday to and from Ireland’s major air hubs, with some flights re-directed to smaller airports, which remained open.

However, CAA and IAA said late yesterday that flight restrictions for Ireland and Scotland will be lifted today, with flights expected to start taking off from 6:00am.

Despite this, some uncertainty amongst the IAA, CAA and NATS continued as the Met Office forecast the cloud will start to move in a southwesterly direction.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Scientists are tracking the cloud’s movements constantly but its location changes frequently, depending on the strength of eruptions and prevailing winds. When the ash level exceeds that agreed as safe by the industry we have to restrict flights accordingly.

He added: “This decision is not taken lightly and we appreciate the huge inconvenience and disruption this causes to the many people and businesses affected.”

IAA chief executive Eamonn Brennan warned earlier this week that the UK’s airports could face a summer of cancellations due to the volcano’s eruptions.

He said: “We could be faced with this periodically during the summer. We are probably facing a summer of uncertainty due to this ash cloud.”

The news comes as a worry to the airline industry, which has already taken a significant hit financially from the previous disruption last month that lasted almost a full week.

Aer Lingus lost €20m (£16.9m) as a result of the volcano, British Airways estimated it lost up to £20m a day in passenger revenue and German carrier Lufthansa said it lost €200m as a result of April’s flight ban.