Airlines halted dozens of flights on Tuesday after a plume of ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland blew over Britain, even forcing U.S. President Barack Obama to revise his travel plans. With the volcanic plume reaching twenty kilometres into the atmosphere, forecasters warned that the plume could reach the European mainland later in the week. The View from Fez will update airline information in this post, as it comes to hand.
At this stage there is no immediate threat to flights to Morocco, though this could change as high winds are forcing the ash cloud towards southern England and flights from that region may be affected from around 6pm today.
What is potentially negative for Morocco is that barely a year after a similar eruption in Iceland forced the biggest closure of European airspace since World War Two, another disruption to tourist numbers would come at a time when the country is still suffering from the downturn caused by international unrest and the tragedy of the bombing in Marrakesh. On the upside, tourism to other Moroccan cities is recovering and here in Fez, which is considered a very safe destination, things are improving
LATEST UPDATE: 2030 Morocco Time
High concentrations of volcanic ash from the Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland are wafting over northern parts of Britain and have forced the cancellation of 500 flights across Europe, the European air traffic center said Tuesday.
Eurocontrol also predicted more cancellations Wednesday as the cloud drifts toward Denmark, southern Norway and southwest Sweden. But the agency also expects the number of future flights affected by the cloud will be relatively low.
Ryanair's flight from Edinburgh to Marrakech took off about 1500 BST, in defiance of warnings from the Civil Aviation Authority.
ACTIVITY at Iceland's erupting volcano has slowed and its flight-halting ash plume had overnight dropped from its peak of 20 kilometres to between three and five kilometres in altitude, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said today. "The activity has reduced. It's much less strong than on the first day", on Saturday, Olof Baldursdottir, a spokeswoman for the agency,added that.."The plume is lower than it has been. It was seven to eight kilometres last evening, but during the night it went down to three to five kilometres," she said, stressing though that the decline could probably be partially attributed to "strong winds that affect the plume".
Harsh weather conditions had made observations of the the volcano and the plume impossible early today, but a scientific flight was expected to go out at noon, Baldursdottir said. Strong low altitude northern winds were currently pushing the cloud of ash towards the south, she added.
UPDATE 1130 Morocco Time
Scotland's airports have been hit by severe disruption as drifting ash from an Icelandic volcano caused delays and cancellations. Thousands of passengers have been affected after airlines suspended services in and out of Scotland, with ash forecast until at least 1900 BST.
The cancellations follow severe storms which have affected road and rail travel across Scotland. Hundreds of engineers have also been out working to restore power to homes. Airport managers in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen said the situation was very fluid and urged passengers to contact their airlines.
Airports had been warned the ash plume would cover the central belt by early morning but it is now expected to drift over Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick during the afternoon. Passengers have faced long delays at Edinburgh Airport and across Scotland
LAST YEAR'S VOLCANO IMPACT
(Source: IATA, Eurocontrol, European Commission)
• Over 10m people stranded or unable to board flights
• Airlines lost $1.7bn in missed revenues
• Airports lost €250m
• 90pc of flights cancelled in worst-affected markets: Finland, Ireland, UK
• Low-cost carriers were worse hit than long-distance carriers, cancelling some 61pc of their flights
• Travel by business jets was the least affected
• 30pc of total worldwide airline capacity was cut. European capacity was cut by 75pc, Africa by 30pc, Middle East by 20pc, others 15pc
• Airline kerosene demand fell by 1.2m barrels a day, compared with 4.3m barrels consumed on a normal day
• Emerging market currencies tied to tourism such as the Kenyan shilling and Turkisjh lira fell
• OECD said ash week cost the European economy $5bn
• Travel and tourism, including transport, lodgings and related investment, comprise about 4pc of West European GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
• PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated each week of disruption destroyed around 0.025pc-0.05pc of annual British GDP; the same would probably be true of other European countries.
• While hotels received fewer incoming tourists, some were able to raise prices to take advantage of stranded tourists.
In this, the latest eruption, Britain's flagship carrier British Airways was the first to suspend flights from London to Scotland. "Following forecasts of significant volcanic ash in Scottish airspace, (we) have decided as a precaution that it will not operate any flights between London and Scotland on Tuesday . . . that arrive in Scotland before 2:00 pm (1300 GMT) or depart from Scotland before 2:00 pm," a BA statement said.
Dutch airline KLM, Irish carrier Aer Lingus and budget liner Easyjet then followed suit while some flights into the north-eastern English city of Newcastle were cancelled.
Low-budget airline Ryanair meanwhile said it would challenge advice from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) not to operate flights to Scotland until lunchtime. In a statement on its website, Ryanair said it strongly objected to an order by the Irish aviation authority (IAA) to halt flights, adding that "here is no basis for these flight cancellations and will be meeting with the IAA on Tuesday morning to have this restriction on Ryanair flights removed as a matter of urgency.
"Ryanair believe 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."