As a massive cloud of volcanic ash spewing from Iceland headed east and southeast Saturday, aviation authorities warned of further disruptions as a global flight backlog built up and airlines faced huge losses.
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Grounded flights and closed airports left millions of passengers stranded for a third day Saturday, as a huge Icelandic volcano ash plume drifted across European airpsace.
The European aviation control agency Eurocontrol warned that there would be major disruption to air traffic for another 24 hours on Saturday. At least 16,000 of the daily 28,000 thousand flights were cancelled on Saturday in the worst travel chaos since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The volcano on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland erupted on Wednesday, sending ash drifting towards Europe at an altitude of about eight to 10 kilometres (five to six miles).
“Volcanic ash poses a very real threat to airplane engines,” UK-based journalist and former geologist Ted Neil told FRANCE 24.
“It’s just not a chance worth taking,” he said.
France has extended the closure of airports in Paris and others across the north of the country until Monday 6am GMT.
The UK has imposed a ban on the majority of flights in its airspace until at least 1800 GMT on Sunday.
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Germany and Poland also extended complete flight bans until Sunday morning, but Lithuania and Norway have partially reopened their airspace.
Disgruntled passengers across Europe and around the world have been forced to spend the night at the airport or scrambled to find other options.
In an online comment, Boré told FRANCE 24 that he has spent the past two nights at the Singapore airport but that airport authorities were providing food, sleeping bags, pillows and that he was given a tourist visa for a few hours.
Travellers, holidaymakers, diplomats and celebrities alike, turned to packed trains, buses, boats and taxis on Friday.
In Paris and London, thousands of passengers rushed to get tickets for the Eurostar cross-Channel rail service. But Eurostar said that even the three extra Paris-London trains could not keep up with demand.
French national Jean-Paul Gaston, stranded in Seoul, South Korea, told FRANCE 24 that he was just trying to get back to Europe, as France may prove too difficult.
The closure of Europe’s three biggest airports - London Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt – has led to a massive flight backlog across the world.
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 a matter of days ago that the industry was just now emerging from recession.
Some airlines like Cathay Pacific said they would no longer be accepting new bookings to main European destinations for the next few days.
While most airlines have not disclosed the economic impact of the biggest airspace shutdown since World War II, Finland’s national carrier Finnair said in a statement that it would stop paying salaries to staff "after two weeks if the situation continues and normal working is prevented.”
Scandinavian airline SAS warned Friday it would temporarily lay off up to 2,500 employees in Norway starting Monday if flights remained grounded.
Europe’s low-cost airline Ryanair cancelled all its flights in northern Europe and the Baltics until 1200 GMT Monday.
Date created : 2010-04-17