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.
The largest holiday charter and budget airline of Scotland, Flyglobespan, has gone bust, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at various locations and scores of staff out of job. Thousands of British holidaymakers from all around the world scrambled to reach home for Christmas and New Year as they were caught unawares by this sudden development. It is estimated that over 100,000 passengers had booked Christmas breaks with the company and most of them complained that they have not received any compensation for the loss or any formal intimation about stalling the operations.
Most of the flights of Flyglobespan were operated from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen serving the Mediterranean resorts though a few flights also flew to far off destinations like Florida and Egypt. The passengers who had booked flights are stranded in far away locations and most of the passengers have not received any formal communication from the airline, adding up to the chaos. Passengers who booked online using debit cards or over phone might lose their money as only credit card payments or those booked through ATOL-bonded travel are likely to get a refund
Though rumours about its bad financial position have been in the air since the last few weeks, the Edinburgh based airline company had denied the news, claiming that a major funding package is on the offing to salvage it from the financial mess. The financial deal, which was thought to have come from the corporate financing firm at New Jersey, Halcyon Investments Ltd, fell through when it failed to clear the regulatory approval of the finance firm.
All the flight operations of the airline would be stopped according to a spokes person of the Pricewater houseCoopers, which was appointed to administer the airline. Only a fraction of the employees will be retained till the airline company is formally wound up. Though it managed to make a profit of £1.2 million for 2008-09 after a loss making previous year, things somehow failed to fall in place. Earlier this year when it withdrew flights from Durham Tees Valley, citing economic reasons, many felt that the fate of this aircraft carrier was already being sealed. The economic slow down had hit the airlines badly in recent times and it was struggling to keep its operations afloat against the hard times and high fuel costs.
Travellers are facing severe problems this winter with fog making it really hard for flights to carry their operation. Due to poor visibility several flights were cancelled causing flyers to wait desperately to reach their destination. With the festive season on cards the problem has worsen as more and more people are looking for a Christmas getaway. It is known that many flights were delayed and even called off due to the foggy conditions continuing, meanwhile several flights has to be cancelled from Heathrow and Gatwick airports with poor flying conditions.
With flights unable to operate, people are resorting to road ways to reach their destination. All major airports were flooded with passengers waiting for their flights to operate; it was chaos all over the place and passengers facing tough time to fly. Many travellers reported were going for celebrating Christmas abroad, but fog ruined their plans and preparations. The British Airways informed that it will refund the airfare for its passengers whose flights were cancelled and will also offer them with rebook facility. But many travellers opted for other means of transportation to reach their destination.
It is expected that if this situation continues, then roads would be busy with travellers going to different places. But the weather forecaster has suggested that the present foggy condition will clear soon making the situation back to normal. It was noticed that about 84 flights were cancelled yesterday from Heathrow airport, and 15 flights were cancelled from Gatwick airport. Amidst all this confusion airport was buzzing with speculation and chaotic situation all waiting for the condition to get favourable for flying.
This severe problem has resulted as a nightmare for many travellers and to some extent has spoiled the festive mood of many. Also with the severe cold conditions in UK, people are heading towards other destination to beat the chill and enjoy a great season of festivals.