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Europe's main airports to remain closed into Saturday

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-04-16

A thick cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland shut down airports across Europe for a second day on Friday. France has banned flights leaving airports in Paris and across the north until 2pm on Saturday local time.

Have your travel plans been disrupted by the volcanic ash cloud? Are you stuck at the airport? Tell FRANCE 24 about your ordeal by posting your story below in the comment section.

Thick clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland have forced the cancellation of thousands of flights across Europe for a second day.

France has extended its ban on flights leaving airports in Paris and across the north of the country until 1pm on Saturday local time. Britain extended its flight ban until noon GMT, but said some transatlantic flights would be allowed into Scotland and Northern Ireland beginning on Friday night as the ash began to clear.

The volcano began erupting Wednesday below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in the south of the island, sending a huge plume of ash 6 to 11 kilometres (4 to 7 miles) into the air.

England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, France, Germany and Poland were among the countries affected.

“Volcanic ash poses a very real threat to airplane engines,” journalist and former geologist Ted Neil told FRANCE 24.

“It’s just not a chance worth taking,” he said.

Neil, who is the editor of Geo Scientist, a magazine published by the UK-based Geological Society of London, described the threat posed by volcanic ash as “one of the most unpredictable and potentially lethal” to airborne planes.

Chaos

The disruption to air traffic will last at least another 24 hours, the European aviation control agency Eurocontrol confirmed on Friday.

According to Eurocontrol, at least 17,000 flights will be grounded across Europe Friday. Normally, there would be 28,000 planes carrying passengers in European airspace.

France’s civil aviation authority extended the ban on flights taking off from airports in Paris and across the north of France until 8am on Saturday local time (6am GMT). Selected flights were allowed to land at the Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Bourget airports until 6pm on Friday.

While some passengers spent the night on airport benches, a lucky few received early warnings. “My travel agency called me just as I was taking a taxi to the airport,” said FRANCE 24 journalist Jean-Baptiste Marot, who was due to leave for holiday Thursday evening.

Stranded passengers scrambled to find other options, such as renting cars and taking trains. Large crowds of disgruntled passengers converged on Paris’s Gare du Nord station where the Eurostar cross-Channel rail service laid on three extra Paris-London trains to ease the chaos.

THE THREAT OF VOLCANIC ASH

British aviation authorities have also extended their flight ban, with travellers in the UK unable to fly until Saturday. However, in the first bit of good news for weary travellers, Sweden began to reopen its airspace Friday.

Airlines across Asia also cancelled or delayed flights to most European destinations, leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers stuck. 

In Poland, a senior presidential aide said the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski would go ahead this weekend. Earlier in the day, Polish authorities were "seriously considering" postponing the funeral as the ash threatens to disrupt the travel arrangements of the dozens of world leaders scheduled to attend.

A blow to a recovering industry

The widespread flight delays and cancellations come at a critical time economically for airlines. Most of the big players were struggling to turn a profit even before the economic crisis struck last year. The International Air Transport Association reported just a matter of days ago that the industry was just now emerging from recession.

 

Date created : 2010-04-16

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