Eurocontrol, the European Air Traffic Agency has stated that almost 100% of flights will operate in Europe tomorrow. It expected 22,500 flights, or 80%, to take place today, compared with about 28,000 that would normally be scheduled. Most (though not all) of today’s European bound flights from US airports (including San Francisco’s SFO) appear to be running a scheduled. Check with your carrier.
According to the European Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London, “Eruptions from Eyjafjallajökull have continued through today with debris being emitted to around 13,000 ft. Weather patterns continue to blow new areas of ash towards north-western parts of the UK, but ash over other parts of Britain and Europe should gradually disperse during the afternoon and evening.”
Aer Lingus has confirmed that all flights between Ireland and the UK, Europe and US are scheduled to operate tomorrow, Thursday 22 April. All Irish airports are currently open.
In the UK – Heathrow has been given special dispensation for additional night flights in an attempt to clear the six-day backlog. The airport is normally allowed a maximum of 16 flights a night but tonight is set to have an additional eight arrivals and eight departures. While all British airports were open today, flights to the Scottish islands of Orkney and Shetland were cancelled from 1pm until 7pm because of a concentration of ash cloud.
So ash is still in the air, though at much lower altitudes, but now it seems that it was never a problem. There is plenty of finger pointing going on, particularly in the UK about keeping the skies closed for too long. Speaking on BBC radio Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: “I think it’s fair to say that we were too cautious but ‘we’ being the international safety regulation community. “Why did it take six days? They needed a good deal of experience and testing to see what was the impact of the ash as operations were taking place in the sky,” he added. The airline industry lobbied strongly for an easing of controls since the weekend, citing evidence from test flights that showed aircrafts’ engines had not been damaged by the ash. Last night the Civil Aviation Authority accepted evidence from airlines and manufacturers that flights could pass through low density ash cloud without risking passengers’ safety. However, earlier Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “We would never be forgiven if we had let planes fly and there was a real danger to people’s lives.” Absolutely true.
In any case, the current crisis is ebbing but there are still an estimated 100,000 Brits and many others trying to get home after being stranded around the world. All due to one relatively mild volcano. Incidentally a portion of the ash cloud is heading for Canada, and eventually the US. (See photo)
Once again, check with you airline to confirm that flights to Europe are running as scheduled. I may finally travel to Ireland after all. What an Icelandic saga.