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Volcanic Ash Causes Worldwide Flight Delays

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See also: Volcanic Ash / Flight Delays - Updates. Numerous countries in Northern Europe have closed their airspace due to the risk of flying through the volcanic ash that is being blown over by high altitude winds from Iceland. It is believed that flying through such ash, which contains tiny particles of rock, glass and sand, can cause aircraft engines to fail.

In 1982, a British Airways Boeing 747 had all four engines fail as it flew through volcanic ash over Indonesia. Captain Eric Moody and his team managed to save the day, averting disaster by restarting the engines after descending to a few thousand feet below the ash. The engines were so badly damaged that they were later scrapped. Other airlines around the world have also had close encounters with potentially dangerous volcanic ash.

Customers around the world with flights into Europe, and flights that were to fly over the closed airspace, are facing cancelations, diversions and delays.

Intra-regional flights in Asia, and other parts of the world, are also affected, as many aircraft are stranded in Europe until the airspace and airports re-open.

Travellers, especially those with plans to travel to, or from, northern Europe are being advised to use their airline's website as a primary source of information, or - if they can - to contact them directly to learn the latest about when their flight is expected to depart. It should be noted however, that as this is a natural phenomenon - rather than a strike or such like - there is really very little the airlines can do but wait for official clearance to fly, and nobody knows quite when that will be.

Two websites we recommend you to also monitor include the UK's National Air Traffic Services (NATS website) and Eurocontrol.

There is some hope emerging for travellers however. KLM operated successful test flights over the weekend, as did a few other airlines. KLM also operated two commercial flights on Sunday, and other airlines have started to fly to different destinations although many of the flights are not for sale as the airlines try to clear back log. Thai Airways has even increased flights to areas Rome and Madrid in southern Europe so passengers at least have the chance to move through continental Europe using other methods of transport. As the situation is extremely fluid at present we strongly advise passengers to check with their airline's website, contact them directly and monitor the two above mentioned websites.

 Those that did have alternative means of transport available to them were quick to make bookings, filling ferries, car rental services, buses, trains and even taxis rapidly.

IATAs initial estimate of the financial impact on airlines is in excess of US$200 million per day in lost revenues. In addition to lost revenues, airlines will incur added costs for re-routing of aircraft, care for stranded passengers and stranded aircraft at various ports.

As yet, there is no clear indication as to how long the disruptions caused by the volcanic ash will last, which is why many airlines are suggesting that travellers do not even make their way to the airport until they know for sure their plane is confirmed for take off. 

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