A massive ash cloud from an eruption of Icelandic volcano Mount Eyjafjallajoekull has resulted in the grounding of all non-emergency flights into UK airspace. The volcano which erupted for the second time in a month has been hurling a plume of ash 6 to 11 km (4 to 7 miles) into the atmosphere. Going by the wind direction, it is expected to continue bringing clouds of ash containing rock, glass and sand particles into UK and European airspace for some more time. The ash could jam aircraft engines and the problem might extend over the weekend.
“I would think Europe was probably experiencing its greatest disruption to air travel since 9/11,” said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, Britain’s aviation regulator.
The unexpected halting of airline services has set the air traffic off track with hundreds of holiday makers stranded. About 17,000 flights were cancelled on Friday due to the dangers posed by clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland. Of the normal traffic of 28,000 daily flights that usually fly through European airspace, only a half will remain operational till the situation gets under control.
Britain’s air space remains closed although certain flights from the airports of Northern Ireland and Scotland were being allowed to take off. No flights operated from London’s Heathrow,the busiest airport in the whole of Europe, which caters to over 180,000 passengers daily. The second busiest airport of Germany’s Frankfurt airport, also suspended flights. Airlines across Asia and the Middle East have also canceled or delayed flights to most European destinations, thereby crippling the air traffic to a great extent. Though volcanic eruptions do not come under the purview of the insurance coverage some airlines have confirmed that they would be refunding fares or change flights.
The airline operational snags have largely benefited the rail companies where all its 58 Eurostar trains between Britain and Europe were operating in full capacity and if the problems persist, additional services would be introduced. Many travel operators roped in additional staff who were put on duty to handle phone calls of the anxious passengers and introduced coaches with more seating capacity to cater to holiday makers and the wedding parties.