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Volcanic ash blocks Europe skies; AI, Jet flights hit

Last updated on: April 16, 2010 16:39 IST

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All long-haul flights between India and Britain, the United States, Canada as well as some other European cities were cancelled or indefinitely delayed on Friday as airspace remained closed over several North European airports due to drifting ash from a volcano in Iceland.

Spokespersons of Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines said they have suspended operations to and from these destinations due to closure of airspace.

All west-bound flights of Air India were suspended from Friday afternoon for the next 48 hours, a spokesperson of the national carrier said.

Similarly, Jet Airways announced indefinite delay in its flights to London's Heathrow airport and its European hub Brussels that were scheduled for departure on Friday.

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Image: Smoke billows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokull.
Photographs: Ingolfur Juliusson/Reuters
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These included onward flights from Brussels to JFK Airport in New York, Newark and Toronto, a spokesperson said.

Due to closure of Heathrow and Brussels Airports, Jet Airways' announces an indefinite delay of its flights bound for Europe.

She said Jet Airways was working with the authorities to obtain the required permission to reschedule the flights at the earliest and said all penalties for cancellation or rescheduling of travel plan have been waived.

Kingfisher also cancelled four flights between London Heathrow and Delhi and Mumbai scheduled on Friday. Passengers have been advised to call the airline office to know their flight schedule before proceeding for airports, officials said.

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Image: Airplanes grounded after a flight ban due to an Icelandic volcanic eruption, at Belfast airport.
Photographs: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
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Volcano leaves travel plans in ashes; AI, Jet flights hit

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Ash clouds from Icelandic volcano continued to hang over European skies on Friday shutting down major airport hubs like Frankfurt, London and Paris for the second day.

The British Air Traffic Control has prohibited aircraft from entering certain parts of airspace over the UK as flying ash can compromise visibility and debris can be sucked into the engines of aircraft.

Kingfisher Airlines cancelled its flights to London for the second consecutive day on Friday while Air India rescheduled its flights to London, Toronto and New York as airspace was closed over several North European airports due to drifting ash from a volcano in Iceland.

Kingfisher flights from New Delhi to London and from London to New Delhi were cancelled. Also, a flight from Mumbai to London and London to Mumbai were cancelled.

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Image: A screen informs passengers that all flights have been cancelled after ash from a volcanic eruption.
Photographs: Andrew Winning/Reuters
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"In view of continuous restriction over UK airspace and closure of London's Heathrow airport, Kingfisher airlines cancelled its flights from Mumbai and New Delhi to London today," Kingfisher spokesperson Prakash Mir Puri said.

Air India has rescheduled its long haul flights to Toronto, New York and London till 2 p.m. on Friday.

"Due to airspace restrictions, Air India's flight from Delhi to New York, Mumbai to New York, Mumbai-London, Delhi-London-Toronto, Delhi-Frankfurt, Mumbai-Frankfurt-Chicago and Ahmedabad-Frankfurt-Newark will leave after 2 p.m. on Friday," an AI spokesperson said.

On Thursday, Kingfisher cancelled all its flights to London from Mumbai and Delhi while Jet cancelled two flights from the two Indian metropolises and one from London to Delhi.

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Image: Stranded passengers play cards in the terminal at Tegel airport in Berlin.
Photographs: Thomas Peter/Reuters
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Passengers have been advised to call the airline office to know their flight schedule before proceeding for airports, officials said.

The British Air Traffic Control has prohibited aircraft entering certain parts of airspace over the UK as flying ash compromised visibility and debris can be sucked into the engines of aircraft.

Lufthansa too issued a statement, saying: 'Due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, large sections of the European airspace and many airports in central and northern Europe have been closed by the air safety authorities.'

'Like all other airlines, Lufthansa is complying with the directives issued by ministries and air traffic control and hence, has cancelled all scheduled flights from India to Frankfurt. Flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Munich are currently as per schedule. However, passengers are requested to visit the airline's website www.lufthansa.com  or call toll-free number 1800 102 5838 for latest updates,' the airline said.

The drifting ash clouds also paralysed all the airports in Norway, Finland and Sweden as the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted on Wednesday again for a second time in less than a month.

TV footage showed spectacular images of lava melting the thick ice, sending black smoke into the air and cascades of water down the steep slopes of the volcano. Hundreds of people round the volcano have fled their homes.

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Image: An aerial photo flash floods consisting of ash and ice caused by a volcanic eruption.
Photographs: Icelandic Coast Guard/Stefan Karlsson/Handout/Reuters
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The ash plume from the volcano is hanging between 6000 and 11,000 metres where it could suck into aircraft engines causing them to shut down. The black smoke has also reduced visibility to almost zero.

Britain's Air Traffic Service said that it was closing the air traffic till 7 pm local time Friday, but some air travel in Northern Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland to and from Glasgow and Prestwick may be allowed, it said.

A spokesman at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, said 840 out of 1,250 flights on Thursday were affected, disrupting about 180,000 passengers.

More than 120,000 other passengers were affected at Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow airports.

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Image: A stranded passenger reads a newspaper as he lines up at a ticket counter at Tegel airport in Berlin
Photographs: Thomas Peter/Reuters
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An Air Transport Association of America spokesman said its member carriers had halted more than 100 flights between the US and Britain on Thursday.

The NATS said "The situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty, as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west".

The ash cloud turned northern Europe into a no-fly zone yesterday and left hundreds of thousands of air passengers stranded.

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Image: Stranded passengers rest or sleep on camp beds at the Hamburg Airport.
Photographs: Christian Charisius/Reuters
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A leading volcano expert said the ash could present intermittent problems to air traffic for six months, if the eruption continued.

The financial impact on airlines could be significant, a consultant said.

The ash clouds even disrupted flights as far away as China, Japan and Australia where air traffic controllers said all flights to Europe were delayed indefinitely.


Image: A volcanic fissure near Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano sends a plume of ash and steam skyward.
Photographs: NASA/Handout/Reuters
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