Hundreds of airline passengers had their travel plans disrupted yesterday after the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano spread into British and Irish airspace, triggering the effective shutdown of several airports. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said restrictions were in place in airspace over parts of the UK, which stopped services arriving or departing from Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford and East Midlands.
Aviation authorities expected London's airports - including Heathrow - to remain open until at least midnight GMT last night, according to the Associated Press. Etihad Airways cancelled four flights that were scheduled for today, which would have travelled between Abu Dhabi, Dublin and Manchester, the UK's busiest airport outside London. However, Emirates Airline cancelled its 2.30am service to London Heathrow and its 2.50am flight to London Gatwick in anticipation of the spread of the cloud, but said its 7.55am departure to Manchester was scheduled to leave as planned.
The Dubai-based carrier advised passengers travelling to Britain and Europe to confirm the status of their flights before going to the airport. "Currently Manchester airport is closed while other airports may close later," said Mohammed Mattar, Emirates' divisional senior vice president of airport services. "Customers travelling to the UK and Europe are advised to check the status of their flight on www.emirates.com, where information is updated every five minutes, before reporting to the airport. It is possible additional flights may be affected in the coming days." Passengers already travelling on Emirates flights whose destination was one of the affected airports would be accommodated in Dubai, he added.
Etihad said that, in addition to its cancelled flights, two flights - one in and one out of Dublin - scheduled yesterday were also postponed for 24 hours. Etihad said the 153 passengers who had been due to fly to Manchester would be diverted to Heathrow, while the airline would find accommodation for the 116 passengers who would have travelled to Ireland. Only passengers who were in transit would have their accommodation costs paid for, the airline said. Etihad announced earlier this month that it planned to seek compensation from European Union authorities after the ash-induced flight ban over Europe last month, which cost the carrier more than US$30 million (Dh110m). @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org