Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

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Flight disruptions in Germany as ash cloud dissipates

  • Planes are flying through the ash cloud on Wednesday (Photo: flightradar24.com)

The ash cloud caused by the eruption of Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano started to dissipate on Wednesday (25 May), with airport closures only in Germany and some delays and cancellations to Scandinavia and Scotland.

According to Eurocontrol, the umbrella organisation of air traffic controllers in Europe, over 500 flights were grounded on Tuesday after the ash plume reached Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia.

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In the German capital, the two airports of Tegel and Schoenefeld were set to close on Wednesday from 11am until 7pm local time, as the cloud descends over mainland Europe.

The northern German airports in Hamburg and Bremen are also closed until Wednesday afternoon, with more than 500 flights set to be affected by the measure.

The good news for delayed travellers, however, is that the volcanic cloud is starting to dissipate over Britain and Scandinavia, according to Eurocontrol's Twitter page, with ash density decreasing and making it safe to fly around it.

In Belgium, where parts of the cloud reached airspace on Wednesday morning, the levels were low enough not to disturb any take-offs or landings. The only cancelled flights from Brussels are to German and Scottish destinations and some delays to Scandinavia.

The reaction this year is considerably milder than in 2010, when another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, caused a complete closure of the European airspace for six days, unprecedented since the second World War.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas was confident that this time around, there will be no complete closure.

"This time things are different. The volcano is different, the ash is different, the weather is different and most importantly, the European response is different," he said.

Despite ash continuing to be a risk for plane engines, dividing areas according to concentration levels and not closing the entire air space is the main "lesson learnt" from last year's experience, he said.

"Although we are partly dependent on the weather and the pattern of ash dispersion, we do not at this stage anticipate the widespread airspace closures and the prolonged disruption we saw last year," he said.

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