Volcanic ash cloud update

ICELAND’S Grimsvötn volcano has stopped erupting and the ash cloud slowly dispersing as it moves across northern Europe. Disrupted flights in the UK are returning to normal. While there is still some concern that weather conditions could blow the remains of the cloud back into regular flight paths later in the week, the UK’s Meteorological Office said it is unlikely.

However, Germany is now experiencing some flight cancellations at Bremen and Hamburg, but this not expected to severely affect operations.

European airlines and airports, represented by the Association of European Airlines (AEA) and ACI (Airports Council International) Europe, met European Commission officials to review the handling of the situation.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe, said: “For those feeling a sense of déjà vu, I can tell you that this latest eruption is being handled in a very different manner. Lessons have been learned from the previous volcanic ash shock in April 2010. This past year, the European Commission, Eurocontrol [the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation] and EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency] have worked intensely to devise an alternative procedure for flight operations, safeguarding the highest possible level of safety, while minimising disruption. This procedure is at the disposal of national governments. It now needs to be applied promptly and consistently throughout Europe.”

“Compared with a year ago, so far we are seeing a stronger unity and clarity of response, which is absolutely vital to airlines and the travelling public,” said Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of AEA. “We must remember this is a rapidly-changing situation, so it is essential to maintain this common European approach,” he added. “Fragmentation among Member States at this critical stage will only confuse airline passengers and cause unnecessary disruption.”

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) criticised low-cost airline Ryanair for its publicity stunt of allegedly flying through a ‘red zone’ of the cloud over Scotland. The CAA says Ryanair was tracked on radar as never coming close to the high-density part of the ash cloud.

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