Tuesday 12 December 2017

Fresh misery for airline passengers as ash returns

Shane Hickey

AIR travellers have been hit by fresh flight disruptions after another cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland drifted over Irish airspace.

Most of the airports around the country were shut last night as a result.

While Cork, Shannon and Kerry airports were open, Waterford and Galway will remain closed until 6am today, Knock and Sligo will be closed until at least 9am, and Dublin and Donegal airports will remain closed until at least noon today.

Specialist aircraft were used by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to calculate the density of the volcanic ash before the restrictions were announced yesterday afternoon.

The fresh disruption is due to a particularly intense cloud of ash spanning some 900 miles by 800 miles being blown over Irish airspace.

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland is continuing to erupt with no end in sight.

Last night a spokesman for the IAA said it was hoped the cloud would have blown away from Ireland by mid-afternoon today, clearing the way for some flights to operate as normal.

As a result of the fresh disruption, Aer Lingus cancelled all flights for today from Dublin airport up to 9am. Just seven Aer Lingus flights and transatlantic journeys operated past 3.45pm yesterday from Dublin.

airports also closed across the north of the UK when a no-fly zone was declared, affecting flights in and out of northern Ireland. Ryanair also cancelled over 140 flights across Europe yesterday.

The IAA said there has been a shift in wind patterns over the last three days, causing the cloud to be moved by north-westerly gusts.

This is the third major wave of disruption the ash cloud has caused since much of Europe's airspace was closed in mid-April for six days.

The unpredictability of the cloud has caused massive uncertainty and disruption among passengers about whether they will be able to travel.

Prospective travellers were told to stay away from Dublin airport and instead check the status of flights from home.


"These latest restrictions have been enforced as extensive observations of the drift of the ash cloud, the volcano's activity and the latest weather forecasts indicate an increased quantity of ash over Irish airspace," the IAA said.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the emergency taskforce would continue to monitor the situation.

Among those disrupted was RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan who wrote on her Twitter account that she had to travel to Cork instead of Dublin due to cancellations.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has lined itself up for a clash with aviation authorities in Italy after the budget carrier was fined €3m for "failing to help" passengers stranded by the ash cloud.

The Italian ENAC civil aviation authority cited 178 cases in which Ryanair failed to meet its obligation to assist passengers between April 17 and 22.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the airline said the fine was "complete rubbish". When asked whether they would appeal, the spokesperson said: "We know nothing about it."

Irish Independent

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