News April, 16th 2010 by

Volcanic ash wreaking havoc on European air traffic

The Icelandic volcano that is disrupting flights throughout western Europe.

The ash from the eruption of a volcano in Iceland is causing havoc in European airspace, forcing the cancellation of several flights and closing airports in several countries of northern Europe.

Flights in UK airspace have been cancelled except for emergencies, according to the National Air Traffic Control Service (NATS), in line with international regulations on civilian air traffic in the event of volcanic activity.

“We are closely following the situation with the weather service, and we will work closely with airlines and other countries,” an NATS spokesman said.

Some 1,300 flights operate to and from Heathrow every day, while at Stansted, the number is between 400 and 450.

The ashes have also affected the airspace of other countries in northern Europe. The Scottish airports of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow were closed to traffic, as was Dublin, Ireland. Norway has also been forced to halt flights, while Danish authorities have announced a complete shutdown. Avinor, the state agency that controls air traffic and airports in Norway, ordered the closure of all air traffic too paralysing almost all flights to and from the country.

Volcanic ash has damaged aircraft engines, disrupting traffic in northern Sweden. Finnish authorities have confirmed the closure of eight airports in the north of the country. In Iceland, however, only domestic flights in the east and north have been affected, while the Keflavik International Airport continues to operate normally. Keflavik is west of the glacier Eyjafjall, where the eruption occurred, while the ashes spread in the opposite direction.

The disruption of air traffic has affected Spain, as well. Morning is the time when flights from or to the UK and Norway are most frequent in Spanish airports, according to data from Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (Aena). In particular, 34 arrivals and 41 departures to or from Northern Europe were cancelled yesterday morning at the airports of Madrid-Barajas, Palma de Mallorca, Lanzarote, Málaga, Valencia, Alicante and Reus.

Aena is informing passengers at affected airports through public address systems and recommends passengers who are scheduled to fly later in the day to contact their airlines. For the latest flight information, passengers should phone Aena at +34 902 404 704 or +34 913 211 000. 

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