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.
With the Easter holidays on , Brits have been busy finalizing their travel plans for the holiday. This season it is estimated that an exodus of sorts of over Two Million Brits is expected to overseas tourists destinations. With the recession loosening its grip, people are more than willing to spend more money to make their holidays really special. While staycations are gaining ground on one side, foreign holiday ideas are also becoming popular in Scotland and the UK in general, thanks to the cheap flights to many European destinations like Spain.
The top five overseas destinations have been Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Milan and New York. People looking for longer-haul options are making the most of flights to Florida and the Dominican Republic. While the winter sports enthusiasts are heading to Geneva the ski gateway for Europe, others are exploring the romantic and cultural city breaks. Exciting packages and bargain deals are up for grabs and the mood among the tourist operators is upbeat.
Easter, which has always been considered as the harbinger of the impending summer season sets the right stage for the holiday makers to take a well deserved break. Heathrow airport will be catering to a surging crowd of over 5 million people while Gatwick and Stansted would be flying 250,000 and 175,000 tourists respectively. Even far off destinations like Egypt , Tunisia and Turkey have many takers and the flights to these destinations are fully booked this season. Enjoying a vacation has never been so good and interesting and people are making the most of it.