Fears of chaos as ash cloud hits Scotland

FEARS OF a repeat of last summer’s mass flight disruption were fuelled yesterday as airlines began cancelling flights in and out of Scotland in the wake of the volcanic ash cloud blowing in from Iceland.

BA, KLM, Easyjet, Flybe, Aer Lingus, Loganair and Eastern Airways have all cancelled services for today as the Met Office forecasted the plume from the Grimsvotn volcano will reach northern and western Scotland last night. It is expected to clip northern parts of Northern Ireland early today, and, if the volcanic emissions continue at the same rate, could reach western France and northern Spain on Thursday.

British Airways grounded all flights from London to Scotland until 2 p.m. today as a precautionary measure, a spokeswoman said.

Others cancelled some of their flights to and from Scotland today. Dutch airline operator KLM, part of Air France-KLM, said last night it had cancelled 16 flights flying to and departing from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle. EasyJet cancelled flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. today, while Flybe cancelled flights to and from Aberdeen and Inverness. Glasgow-based Loganair cancelled 36 flights.

Iceland’s aviation authority reopened Keflavik airport late last night, but said it was impossible to know whether the island’s international hub would remain open today.

Authorities played down a repeat of last year, when ash from an Icelandic volcano caused some 100,000 flights to be cancelled, stranding 10m passengers and costing the industry an estimated $1.7bn (£1.1bn) in lost revenue.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond said authorities could work with airlines to “enable them to fly around concentrations of ash rather than having to impose a blanket closure”.

Nonetheless, airline shares fell, losing three to five per cent yesterday.