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Northern Irish and Scottish Airport close over new ash cloud fears

Airports in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland closed from 0700 BST because of risks from volcanic ash, the Civil Aviation Authority has said.

Glasgow, Prestwick and Derry are likely to be closed all day, while there are plans to shut Inverness in the morning only, and Belfast in the afternoon.

The CAA advised air passengers to check with airports before travelling and warned the situation was changeable.

Last month, volcanic ash clouds from Iceland grounded flights for six days.

The situation in the skies has been changing hour by hour, meaning the picture for air travellers is unclear.

Dublin Airport will also close from 1100 BST until further notice.

Forecasts show the 60 nautical mile buffer zone imposed around high concentrations of ash is close to some northern airports.

Glasgow 0700-1900
Prestwick 0700-1900
Inverness 0700-1300
Stornoway 0700-1900
Benbecula 0700-1900
Tiree 0700-1900
Islay 0700-1900
Barra 0700-1900
Campbeltown 0700-1900
Derry 0700-1900
Belfast International 1300-1900
Belfast City 1300-1900
Dublin 1100-onwards
All times in BST. Source: CAA at 0200 BST

However, the latest advice issued by the CAA at 0200 BST said airports in Edinburgh and north-west England could safely stay open on Wednesday, despite the proximity of the ash.

The CAA says the South East of England is unlikely to be affected on Wednesday.

In a statement, the CAA said: "The situation remains changeable, so passengers expecting to travel from airports in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North of England and north Wales should contact their airlines to check whether their flight is operating."



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Flight ban in Ireland and parts of UK over new Volcanic ash cloud risk

All flights in and out of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been grounded since 0700 BST because of fresh risks from volcanic ash.

Airspace over Scotland's Outer Hebrides was closed, affecting Tiree, Barra and Benbecula airports, with Campeltown in Argyll also closed.

Flights in and out of the Republic are due to resume from 1300 BST.

An ash plume is drifting south from the same Icelandic volcano that wreaked havoc to European air travel in April.

Flights over Europe were banned for six days last month because of fears of the effect of volcanic ash on plane engines.

In the rest of the UK, schedules are operating as normal.

The decision to lift the restrictions followed safety tests that showed the engines could cope in areas of low density ash.

The fresh disruption comes as European Union transport ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss ways to improve air traffic management in the wake of last month's events.

Last week a spokeswoman for EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said that had there been more co-ordination at EU level, air traffic could have resumed up to three days earlier.

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Airlines want compensation for Ash Cloud closures!

Heathrow Airport was granted permission for more night landings

Heathrow Airport was granted permission for more night landings

Airlines want compensation for the volcanic ash disruption, estimated to have cost the industry more than £1bn.

Ryanair has now said it will abide by EU rules and and pay for stranded passengers' food and accommodation.

The Civil Aviation Authority has rejected accusations that it was too slow in reopening UK airspace.

Almost all flights across Europe are expected to go ahead on Thursday.

Huge numbers of passengers stranded by the flight ban are still finding their own way back, however.

Ryanair U-turn

Many airlines are angry at the length of the airspace ban and its knock-on cost to them.

In addition to seeking compensation, some - including Ryanair - had objected to paying the hotel and food bills of stranded passengers.

If governments close airspace, the governments should reimburse passengers, not the airlines
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary

Under EU regulations, if a flight is cancelled then those passengers flying on European carriers in or out of the EU have the right to a refund or to be re-routed.

If passengers choose to be re-booked by their airline, the law require carriers to cover passengers' reasonable expenses.

Earlier, budget airline Ryanair said reimbursement would be limited to the original air fare paid by each passenger.

However it later issued a statement saying it would comply with the EU rules and would refund passengers for "reasonably-receipted expenses".

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary told the BBC passengers would not receive extra compensation for the inconvenience and the airline would seek to recover its costs - up to 40m euros (£35m) - from the EU "which closed the airspace".

Mr O'Leary also said he would continue to lobby for a change to the "grossly unfair" rules.

"They're not designed for European governments closing the entire European airspace for seven days," he said. "If governments close airspace, the governments should reimburse passengers, not the airlines".

'Against the law'

Easyjet said the flight ban had cost it £50m, including paying for 15,000 hotel rooms.

Oliver Aust from the airline told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme it will compensate passengers but said that the law was "unfair".

The EC have indicated they will compensate airlines and British holiday companies in the same way that the American government compensated airlines in America after 9/11
Sir Richard Branson

"We accept it is in the legislation but the legislation is not fit for purpose - it was drafted to deal with overbooking, it was never meant to make airlines the insurer of last resort in a case of natural disaster," he said.

Some flight-only travellers with Tui - which owns Thomson - whose original flights were cancelled are also being told they would have to pay the difference if an alternative flight is more expensive.

But the official airline watchdog in the UK, the Air Transport Users Council, said passengers should not be asked to pay more money.

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Some Flights Take Off But New Ash Cloud Causing Uncertainty

Some domestic flights are taking off in the UK, as airports begin to reopen after five days without flights because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

The first planes from Edinburgh and Glasgow both headed for Stornaway after 0700 BST - among a handful of internal flights scheduled from Scotland.

But Nats said a new ash cloud was causing uncertainty and there was now a worsening situation in some areas.

Belfast Airport said it hoped to start flights to Scotland from 1000 BST.

It said if it got the go ahead from Nats, a Flybe flight to Glasgow would leave at 1015 BST.

Although Scottish airspace is open most of the flights are said to be to destinations elsewhere in Scotland.


The first international flight from Glasgow is due to head for Reykjavik in Iceland at midday.

Schedules are constantly changing and passengers have been advised not to travel to airports until they have checked with their airline or tour operator.

At Glasgow, there was only a trickle of passengers checking in for the Stornoway flight, which carried about 30 passengers.

Some of the check-in desks were staffed, but had no queues. A flight from Aberdeen to Newcastle was set to depart at 0825 BST. Flights from Newcastle are expected to head to Aberdeen and the Isle of Man.

illustration of volcanic ash dispersion up to 20,000 ft, issued at 7 am on 20 April. Advisory charts are issued every six hours, for up to 18 hours ahead, by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

illustration of volcanic ash dispersion up to 20,000 ft, issued at 7 am on 20 April. Advisory charts are issued every six hours, for up to 18 hours ahead, by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.


How Long Will The Iceland Volcanic Ash Cloud last?

Scientists are struggling to work out if the eruption itself could continue for days, weeks or even months.

But, as Professor Jon Davidson - an earth scientist from the University of Durham - told BBC News, it was not the eruption per se that caused the problem.

"It's the fact that the prevailing winds are driving the ash plume over the UK," he explained.

And scientists in Iceland reported on Friday morning that the volcano was continuing to generate a tall plume of ash - contributing to the cloud already drifting high in the atmosphere over the UK.

So the cloud that has grounded UK flights appears to be continuing to grow. And the researchers say that could go on for several days.

Dr David Rothery, a volcanologist from the UK's Open University agrees this could happen, but suggests that it is unlikely.

Intense and explosive

"It is usual that an explosive eruption like this has its most intensive point at the start and that it gradually subsides," he told BBC News.

What scientists are trying to find out, he explained, is if the [ongoing] eruption is explosive enough to create a tall column of ash and continue feeding the plume.

It is the explosion that initially forces the ash upward - expanding gas at the eruption site generates thrust. From there, the cloud of dust and gas rises because it is warmer than the surrounding air.

So if the eruption continues to be intense and explosive, giving the ash that initial upward thrust, the plume that has been blown in UK and European airspace could continue to grow.

But according to the most recent reports from the UK Met Office and the Icelandic Met Service, ash is now being released in pulses rather than a continuous plume.

Unpredictable eruption

Professor Davidson said that there was no way to reliably predict how the Eyjafjallajokull volcano will behave.

"This eruption started on 20 March," he said. "So in a sense it's been erupting already for almost a month.

"We will be watching the seismic activity because [from that] we will be able to see the predictions in changes in the behaviour of the volcano that will herald an increase or decrease in its activity."

And currently, there appears to be far less seismic activity in Iceland than in the days running up to Wednesday's eruption. This could mean that the worst is over.

But researchers in Iceland, who have analysed the first sample of ash produced by the volcano, have found that its composition could contribute to the explosiveness of future eruptions.

"The magma is much richer in silicon than the basalt that was previously erupting in the initial stages," explained Dr Mike Burton, senior volcanologist at the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology.

"This has two important implications. Firstly, the ash produced will be finer, with smaller particles compared with basalt."

Finer ash will rise more easily.

Secondly, he said, "the activity may well be more explosive because of the higher viscosity of the magma."

The more viscous the magma, the less easily gas flows through it. "Therefore it's easier for pressure build up to occur, leading to more violent explosions."

Through Thursday and Friday, the volcano has continued to feed an existing large plume of ash that is moving very slowly eastward at a height of about 30,000ft.

Aviation authorities cannot risk reinstating flights when this plume is within airspace, as the ash could clog jet engines and cause them to fail.

Jim Haywood, a researcher from the Met Office confirmed on Friday that he and his colleagues had detected the plume above the UK.

"It's patchy but it's certainly there, although you won't see it with the naked eye," he said.

"We are formulating some forecasts about how long this may last, but that will be very dependent on the eruption from the volcano, so we're working closely with scientists in Iceland to get the most up to date information about the eruption height and intensity."

The UK is enduring a fourth day as a virtual no-fly zone due to volcanic ash drifting from Iceland, leaving Britons stranded around the world.

The UK is enduring a fourth day as a virtual no-fly zone due to volcanic ash drifting from Iceland, leaving Britons stranded around the world.

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