Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Ash cloud cleared by long weekend

Smoke plumes from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano which began erupting on Saturday for the first time since 2004 (AP)

The volcanic ash cloud threatening bank holiday travel plans should be cleared in time for the weekend, forecasters have said.

As activity from the Grimsvotn volcano dropped, only a handful of flights in and out of the UK were cancelled on Wednesday.

Airline passengers enjoyed near disruption-free flights as the ash cloud from Iceland moved away from British skies to northern Europe.

The Met Office said there would be "minimal" ash over the UK and Europe as the bank holiday weekend begins.

The latest information from the Icelandic Meteorological Office suggests the volcano is no longer emitting ash, and only minor steam plumes from the crater up to around 300 metres, said the Met Office spokesman.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond met representatives from air traffic control company Nats, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Met Office, British Airways and easyJet to discuss ways air travel disruption could be avoided in the future.

He said: "I am pleased that, following discussions with the industry and regulators today, we have agreed further steps to reduce potential disruption, should the ash cloud return.

"Test aircraft are now flying through the ash cloud gathering information about its density, BA and easyJet have agreed to provide further information to help us define the 'red zone' even more accurately in the future, and key steps have been taken to establish a new 'underflying' regime for UK airports."

With the ash cloud moving away to northern Europe, several UK carriers, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair had to axe some of their German flights on Wednesday. Around 700 flights in total were axed across Europe.

Ryanair questioned the necessity of designating "red zones" over Scotland on Thursday. But Mr Hammond said aviation authorities would "not be bullied" by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary, or anyone else, into departing from a policy of prioritising passenger and aircraft safety.

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