Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Volcano ash: latest

Around 60% of flights from northern Europe are expected to begin again from today, Tuesday 20 April.

A small number of flights have already taken off after five days of inactivity caused by the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland. Planes have been departing from Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt among others - though many flights are still grounded.

However, not all the news is good. A new ash cloud spreading from Iceland has meant that most of UK airspace, including London, remains closed. The UK's air traffic control authority, Nats, says it is unlikely that the main airports in London will reopen on Tuesday.

EUROPEAN AIRSPACE 11h00 today, 20 April
BELGIUM - Airspace open. Limited service
UK - Airspace open over Scotland and Northern Ireland. Limited airspace over north of England. London airports remain closed
FRANCE - Limited flights from Paris to international destinations. Most airports open
GERMANY - Airspace closed, with some exceptions, until 18h00 on Tuesday. Lufthansa planning to operate 200 flights
IRELAND - Airspace remains closed
ITALY - Airspace open. Handful of flights resumed in and out of Milan
NETHERLANDS - Airspace open. Passenger flights arriving and departing in Amsterdam
SPAIN - Airspace open; all airports operating
SWEDEN - Airspace open
SWITZERLAND - Airspace open
DENMARK - Airspace above 16,600ft open. No landings
NORWAY - Airspace closed
POLAND - Airspace closed

A Nats statement said the situation remained "dynamic" and that "the latest information from the Met Office shows that the situation today will continue to be variable".

In an effort to try to take control of the situation, EU transport ministers have created a core no-fly area, a limited-service zone and an open-skies area. The Eurocontrol air traffic agency in Brussels says that some 14,000 of Europe's 27,500 daily flights are expected to fly on Tuesday.

The deputy director of operations, Brian Flynn, said: "The outlook is optimistic that bit by bit, hopefully in a few days' time, the situation will be restored to normal movement of air passengers in Europe."

Swiss and northern Italian airspace has reopened. The Swiss authorities said test flights had shown a considerable reduction in the amount of ash in the atmosphere and posed no threat to passenger safety.

Flights have resumed out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airport, which are operating at about 30% capacity.

The German carrier, Lufthansa, says it is planning about 200 flights on Tuesday, taking advantage of special permission to fly visually rather than relying on instruments and keeping in constant touch with air traffic controllers.

In Spain, where all airports were open, the government has offered to let Britain and other European countries use its airports as stopovers to get passengers moving again.

Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, has rejected criticism that the EU took too long to respond to the crisis. Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Kallas said that all decisions were taken in accordance with existing and established rules.

Mr Kallas said that officials had had to delay decisions until "the ultimate truth" of the situation was known following test flights on Sunday.

He said the matter was not "in the hands of arbitrary decisions", but that the lives of people were at stake.

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