Euro flights grounded by looming ash

FLIGHTS into and from mainland Europe faced disruptions yesterday after the ash cloud emanating from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano continued to threaten air safety.

Airports in Italy, Spain and Portugal faced a slew of weekend closures as authorities continued to report thick ash concentration between the ground and 20,000 feet in the air, grounding hundreds of flights.

Portugal’s north and central airports and Spain’s northwest airports were affected by the flight disruptions, while Milan, Pisa and Florence airports remained shut until midday yesterday.

Eurocontrol, the European air safety watchdog, said yesterday that 500 less flights were in the sky and only 24,500 flights were expected to fly, while 200 less planes flew on Saturday.

British Airways (BA) said yesterday that it had re-routed some of its planes to avoid the ash cloud, while both easyJet and Ryanair cancelled flights going to and from some of the affected region.

Eurocontrol said that it expected the cloud to thin out by the end of yesterday, while the Met Office reported that the ash plume had reduced slightly.

The Met Office also warned yesterday that there were no indications from Icelandic weather authorities that the eruption was close to ending and that most of the ash cloud is likely to stay over the Atlantic Ocean and close to western parts of the British Isles today.

UK airspace remains open.

● Airline industry takes $1.7bn (£1.1bn) hit, IATA.

● BAA airports lose £28m.

● More than 100,000 flights cancelled.

● Eight million passengers affected.