EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Flights from and to Scotland have been cancelled due to a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland moving towards other parts of Europe, one year after another Icelandic volcano caused the largest air traffic shutdown since World War II.
British Airways, KLM, Easyjet, Air Lingus and Ryanair suspended all their flights to and from Scotland on Tuesday (24 May) due to a dense cloud from the Grimsvotn volcano which erupted in Iceland over the weekend.
With the British civil aviation authority predicting that the plume may reach the UK and Ireland later in the week, US President Barack Obama cut short his visit to Ireland and hurried to London Monday night. Last year, Obama had to cancel a trip to Poland due to the Icelandic ash cloud.
Airlines found that the six-day freeze in all European flights last April after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull was exaggerated, leading to multi-billion losses and millions of stranded passengers all over the world.
The EU commission on Monday tried to reassure the public that this time around, aviation authorities are more prepared and that they act faster, with a first crisis meeting already having taken place.
But the core issue of the amount of ash tolerable for plane engines remains "a complex issue", a commission spokeswoman said.
She said the crisis cell recommends the set up of three-colour zones, with only the red of high density obliging airlines not to fly.
This time around, the weather conditions are also more unpredictable and the density of the cloud different than last year, the spokeswoman said, suggesting that the disruptions will be less severe.
A positive sign in this regard is that Iceland reopened two airports in Rejkjavik on Monday, after a 36-hour closure.
An Icelandic meteorological official said the eruption which began on Saturday already appeared to be getting smaller. The Grimsvotn volcano lies beneath the ice of the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in south-east Iceland. The latest eruption is its most powerful eruption in 100 years.
UK Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond told the BBC that Britain had equipment in Iceland analysing the ash as it comes out of the volcano, and equipment in the UK that analyses the density of the ash.
"We won't see a blanket closing of airspace," he said.
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