x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Will Grimsvotn leave airline finances ashen-faced?

Icelandic volcano eruptions which are threatening to shut down European airspace are expected to improve later this week.

A passengers looks at the information board that shows most of the flights canceled due to elevated levels of ash in the atmosphere stemming from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano, at the airport in Hamburg, northern Germany, today. AP Photo / Philipp Guelland
A passengers looks at the information board that shows most of the flights canceled due to elevated levels of ash in the atmosphere stemming from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano, at the airport in Hamburg, northern Germany, today. AP Photo / Philipp Guelland

Icelandic volcanic eruptions that caused US$1.7 billion (Dh6.24bn) in damage to airlines last year are again threatening to shut down European airspace.

Civil aviation agencies in Scotland and northern Germany has already restricted flights as the Grimsvotn volcano continued spewing ash particles up to 12km high into the atmosphere. These ash particles have been known to cause engine failure in high-altitute airliners.

Despite a constantly changing environment, scientists say this year's eruptions appear less dangerous and that meteorological conditions could begin to improve, not worsen.

"It's not over," said Pall Einarsson, from the University of Iceland, told the AP. "But it's declining rapidly."

Last March, Middle East airlines such as Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways lost tens of millions of dollars from the flight distruptions which grounded aircraft and stranded thousands of passengers throughout the European continent. The airlines suffered from loss of revenues as well as costs associated with putting up stranded passengers in hotel accommodation.

The looming ash cloud has already caused travel changes in two high-profile cases: President Barack Obama flew from Ireland to England a day early and the world's top-ranked football club, FC Barcelona, also flew to England several days ahead of schedule in advance of their Champion's League final on Saturday against Manchester United.

igale@thenational.ae