x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Armani Hotel launch is casualty of volcano

Millions hit by travel chaos, 63,000 flights cancelled, Emirates Airlines loses $10m a day and few signs of ash cloud disappearing.

As the skies over Europe remained eerily empty of aircraft for a fourth day yesterday, the impact on the UAE grew more severe. The highest profile casualty of the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano that has caused worldwide travel chaos was the opening of the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. With the designer Giorgio Arman unable to fly to Dubai for the launch on Wednesday, it was postponed until April 27.

Elsewhere, schools reopened after their break with attendance significantly down as staff and pupils failed to return from overseas. Crowds were thin on the opening day of Cityscape in the capital, with European exhibitors unable to to attend the property show. Emirates Airline said it was losing US$10 million (Dh36.7m) a day as a result of the flight ban. Its president, Tim Clark, said: "The scale of this crisis is unlike anything I have experienced in my career."

UAE authorities have ruled that travellers stranded here will not be charged for extending their visas, or fined if they overstay because of the disruption. Worldwide, millions of passengers have had travel plans disrupted. The European air traffic management agency Eurocontrol said 20,000 flights were cancelled yesterday, bringing the total to 63,000 since the emergency began on Thursday. Airspace over Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK remained totally closed, with partial closures in Italy, Norway and Spain.

In Iceland, powerful tremors continued to shake the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and a steady stream of ash poured into the sky. Einar Kjartansson, a geologist at the Icelandic meteorological office, said: "There are some hints that the eruption will be decreasing, but others show it is not decreasing." Observations appeared to show that the volcano had deflated slightly, but Mr Gudmundsson said: "The volcano is emptying very slowly, but this does not tell us when it stops."