Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Fresh flights uncertainty as new ash cloud appears

Two Royal Navy ships have been deployed to help get stranded travellers, Gordon Brown said
The volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier sends ash into the air
HMS Ark Royal will be made available for the relief effort
HMS Ocean will be made available for the relief effort
The crater of the Iceland volcano, which erupted for the second time in a month. (AP)
Departures boards in Terminal 3 at Manchester Airport, where flights have been suspended due to ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moving towards UK airspace. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 15, 2010. See PA story AIR Ash.
People wait for information in the departure lounge at Gatwick airport
Smoke billows from an erupting volcano by the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. Airspace from Ireland to Finland closed following eruption of the volcano
Andy Bodenham, Met Office Forecaster looks at a enchanced colour satellite image highlighting a volcanic ash plume moving towards the United Kingdom
The sun sets over the Houses of Parliament, London, as an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano grounded all but emergency flights above the UK
The sun sets over the Birmingham skyline
The sun sets behind the control tower of Heathrow Airport
Airports closed as volcanic ash drifts towards Britain
James Kemp in Belfast is trying his best to get back to Leeds. All flights at Belfast International Airport have been cancelled due to the volcanic ash.
Melting ice spewing from the crater of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland
This image made available by the Icelandic Coastguard, Wednesday April 14, 2010, shows the crater the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland, which erupted for the second time in less than a month
Melting ice spewing from the crater of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland
This false-color short-wavelength infrared image shows Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano (centre) from data obtained by NASA

Air passengers across Northern Ireland are facing another day of uncertainty after warnings last night that a new ash cloud was spreading towards the UK.

Air traffic control organisation Nats said the “situation was worsening” in some areas — casting doubt on this morning’s planned reopening of Northern Irish airspace.

The outlook for Northern Ireland is most uncertain, the company said last night.

“The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the UK,” it said.

“This demonstrates the dynamic and rapidly changing conditions in which we are working.

“Latest information from the Met Office shows that the situation is worsening in some areas.

“Based on this information, the situation for Northern Irish airports for the morning is uncertain, due to the new ash cloud.”

Northern Irish airspace was expected to reopen at 7am, with planes due to fly out of the International, Belfast City and City of Derry airports.

Last night, a spokesman for Belfast City Airport said they were still intending to proceed with flights today.

Yesterday, most flights to and from Northern Ireland were cancelled for a fifth day, leaving planes grounded and passengers still stranded.

There were also warnings that the crisis could threaten the |existence of some airlines.

Transport minister Conor Murphy said the shutdown because of volcanic ash will not have been budgeted for by some operators.

“I am sure most airlines are operating on fairly tight budgets, the shutdown won't have been budgeted for in the financial plan of the airline,” he said.

“I would not be surprised if some of them are suffering financially as a consequence and it may well threaten the existence of some of them.”

Prior to last night’s fresh ash cloud, Flybe said it would be restarting certain routes, with the

first flight due to take off from George Best Belfast City Airport heading to Edinburgh at 10.05am.

Some flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle were also scheduled to resume today.

The chief executive of Belfast City Airport, Brian Ambrose, said he expected a “phased reintroduction” of flights over the next 24 hours, with a “much fuller” programme tomorrow.

“We normally have over 100 flights a day and at the minute less than 20% of that has been confirmed for Tuesday,” he said.

“However, when you consider that an average day is about 8,000 to 9,000 passengers and we had 47 on Saturday, it is a giant step forward.”

Mr Ambrose said the past five days have been unprecedented for the industry and estimates the economic cost to the airport could run into several hundred thousand pounds. “For a small airport of this size, it will be six figures and substantial,” he added.

Belfast International Airport confirmed that it will also be open from 7am this morning, in line with advice given by Nats.

In a statement, the airport said a return to normal flying schedules would depend upon where aircraft and crews are currently located. “On this basis, it is likely that it would take several days for a controlled resumption of business to take place,” it said.

Translink said it has put in place extra coaches to take passengers to and from the ferry ports.

Stena Line also reported a record demand.

The lockdown has left millions stranded, but the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland said that people were entitled to refunds.

“Passengers who are stranded and cannot get home are entitled to overnight accommodation, meals and phone calls for the duration of the disruption,” said spokesman Aodhan O’Donnell.

Those affected have been told to keep hold of receipts.

For latest flight information check out airport websites:

www.belfastcityairport.com

www.belfastairport.com

www.cityofderryairport.com

Have your travel plans been thrown into chaos? Email your story to Newseditor

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