x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Flights expected to resume over Europe today after ash cloud disruption

Normal services are expected to resume today after disruptions, but UK airspace could be affected again tomorrow, experts say.

Ash pouring from an Icelandic volcano reportedly reached northern Germany, forcing the closure of airports from Hamburg to Berlin.
Ash pouring from an Icelandic volcano reportedly reached northern Germany, forcing the closure of airports from Hamburg to Berlin.

DUBAI // Normal air services were expected to be operating over Europe today as the disruption caused by the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano eruption six days ago began to abate.

Airports in northern Germany reopened after being shut for part of yesterday and most carriers continued with normal scheduled flights.

The ash cloud from the Grimsvotn volcano had closed UK airspace and after making its way across northern Europe it was heading south, although the impact was not expected to be serious. However, authorities warned that UK airspace could be affected again tomorrow.

Experts said the volcano, which belched a plume of dust and rock that peaked at 20km in height, has now stopped spewing ash. Volcanic ash can damage aircraft engines and reduce visibility, making air travel dangerous.

"There are indications that it's ceasing really," the Icelandic meteorologist Hrafn Gudmundsson said. He said no plume had been detected since the early hours of yesterday morning, with the last one having been seen at 2.10am GMT. Since then, he said, mainly steam had been coming from the crater.

He added that although the eruption was not officially over, every indication pointed to it easing.

A British Airways test flight over Scotland and northern England on Tuesday "found nothing" according to Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways and Iberia.

A BA spokeswoman said flights to all areas including Scotland were operating as normal yesterday and expected to continue to do so today.

"Some disruption still remains possible," she said. "But we are monitoring the ash situation and although the weather can change very quickly we are not expecting it to affect our flights."

The closure of airspace in northern Germany did, however, force Emirates to cancel flights EK059 and EK060 between Dubai and Hamburg yesterday.

None of the airline's other flights were affected and passengers were given the option to book flights EK055 and EK058 to and from Dusseldorf yesterday or to fly today.

"All other flights to and from the UK and Europe continue to operate as per the schedule," said an Emirates spokeswoman.

"Emirates continues to monitor the situation closely, in addition to liaising with the relevant authorities regarding the movement of the volcanic ash cloud."

Etihad was not affected by the dust cloud, with all flights operating on time while Virgin Atlantic said its schedule was running as normal yesterday and there were no planned cancellations.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch carrier KLM said all its flights were running normally except those to Berlin, which remained closed and resulted in one of the six daily return flights having to be cancelled.

"We did have to cancel 12 return flights to Germany in the early hours of Wednesday but all the other airports except Berlin are now reopen," she said. German air traffic authorities said they expected to lift the restrictions on Berlin airports by yesterday evening.

According to Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic control body, the volcanic ash was expected to spread to parts of Poland yesterday, although there were no restrictions on flights in the rest of the continent.

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled over Europe, but so far travellers have escaped the type of disruption caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April last year that resulted in weeks of chaos. Experts say the ash is of a different type this time, with larger particles that fall more quickly to the ground.

Airlines, governments and air traffic authorities are urging passengers to regularly check carrier websites for the latest updates on flight schedules.

nhanif@thenational.ae