Ryanair has protested against the cancellation of flights in Scotland and parts of northern England today following the eruption of Iceland's Grímsvötn volcano, claiming that there is no safety risk.
Airlines were forced to cancel an estimated 20,000 journeys to and from Scotland this morning as a result of the spreading Icelandic ash cloud. Services by easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Loganair, Eastern Airways and KLM have all been affected although some flights are running from Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.
Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley airports have also seen flights cancelled in a rapidly changing situation. The National Air Traffic Service (NATS), in an update at 9am, said volcanic ash from the Grímsvötn volcanic eruption is forecast to affect some parts of the UK between 1pm and 7pm today.
Services will be affected from airports including: Londonderry, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Newcastle, Carlisle and Durham Tees Valley. Passengers are being advised to check with their airline before travelling to these airports. A further update from NATS is due at approximately 3pm.
The ash cloud is not expected to have as severe an effect on the UK as the one caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökul volcano in 2010, when an estimated 100,000 flights were cancelled.
But transport secretary Phillip Hammond told the BBC’s Newsnight that most flights in and out of Scotland would be stopped on Tuesday morning, with a gradual reopening of airspace from around lunchtime. No English airports are expected to be affected, but some transatlantic flights have been subject to delays as a result of the cloud.
Ryanair, which was forced to cancel almost 40 flights to and from Aberdeen, Prestwick and Edinburgh until at least lunchtime today, criticised the airspace shutdown. The no-frills carrier, “strongly objecting” to the decision said it believed “there is no basis for these flight cancellations”.
“Ryanair believe(s) that there is no safety risk to aircraft on fights operating to and from Scotland and together with other airlines will be complaining to the transport minister and regulatory authorities about these latest and unnecessary cancellations,” the airline said. The carrier is to complain to the Irish Aviation Authority at a meeting today.
Cheapflights chief executive Chris Cuddy said: “Although the Met Office - which runs Europe's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre - has said ash may possibly move across the UK towards the end of this week, travellers should take heart that UK air travel to destinations, other than Iceland, was not affected the last two times Grimsvotn erupted.
“Despite being Iceland's most active volcano, Grimsvotn is different to the one which erupted last April, so we have every hope that it will be business as usual in airports across the country.
“The key difference to last year's eruption is that UK airspace was shut down completely by the authorities as a precaution, but this time airlines will make their own decisions about whether it is safe to fly.
“We are hopeful that previous experience should minimise disruption to travellers, as weather patterns over the next week are looking favourable. Travellers with flights booked to Iceland and other European destinations over the next week are advised to keep up-to-date with the situation. In the situation that airspaces actually close, travellers should speak to their airline or tour operator first, checking online for updates.”
Rochelle Turner, head of research for consumer champion Which? Travel, said: “We were all taken by surprise when volcanic ash caused widespread disruption last year, but the airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority know what to expect now.
“Hopefully disruption will be minimal, but airlines will have no excuse if they fail to act quickly to inform passengers of delays and cancellations, or to provide the necessary assistance should people find themselves stranded."
Ash cloud flight update - full list of cancelled flights:
- British Airways says as a precaution it will not operate any flights between London and Scotland until 2pm today.
- KLM has cancelled flights to and from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle this morning.
- Loganair is cancelling most of its intra-Scotland and flights in and out of Scotland until 1pm.
- Eastern Airways is not operating flights to and from Scotland and some flights to Norway.
- EasyJet and Flybe have also cancelled flights to several airports in the north of England.
- EasyJet also cancelled flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen scheduled for between 5am and 9am.
- Flybe cancelled flights to and from Aberdeen and Inverness
- Bmi says all its flights in and out of Glasgow and Edinburgh are operating as normal
- Iceland's Keflavik airport is expected to resume operations today after Icelandic aviation authorities announced the reopening of airspace over the airport. The airport was closed yesterday after the Grimsvötn volcano in south east Iceland began erupting on Saturday.
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