Tens of thousands of airline passengers remain stranded around the world as the volcanic dust cloud continues to ground virtually all flights across Northern Europe. UK airspace remains closed, with experts now warning that eruptions could continue for months.
The National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS) has been extending its ban since Saturday. The latest deadline set by the British air traffic control service is 01:00 on Tuesday.
It said in a statement: “Conditions around the movement of the layers of the volcanic ash cloud over the UK remain dynamic. NATS is maintaining close dialogue with the Met Office and with the UK’s safety regulator, the CAA, in respect of the international civil aviation policy we follow in applying restrictions to use of airspace. We are currently awaiting CAA guidance.”
“Based on the latest information from the Met Office, NATS advises that the current restrictions across UK controlled airspace due to the volcanic ash cloud will remain in place until at least 0100 (local) on Tuesday 20 April.”
“We are working closely with Government, airports and airlines, and airframe and aero engine manufacturers to get a better understanding of the effects of the ash cloud and to seek solutions.”
Eurocontrol - the European air traffic control organisation - has warned flights could be disrupted into next week.
As many as 17,000 flights were cancelled over the weekend, with just 40 per cent of scheduled flights within the European Union taking to the air.
Airports in the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands have all been closed as airspace is shut down.
Ferry operators have reported record bookings. P&O took 6,000 foot passengers across the Channel on Friday compared to the 100 to 200 it would expect at this time of year.
Eurostar services are fully booked, with 50,000 more passengers than normal since the airspace closures on Thursday.
The grounding of all flights has already cost the British economy at least £920 million, with losses expected to rise at the rate of £230m for every day of further disruption.
The airline industry alone will have lost an estimated £520 million by the end of today, with losses of £130m for every day of disruption.
Aviation experts have pointed to previous incidents where aircraft engines have become jammed when attempting to fly through clouds of volcanic ash.
In Iceland, volcanic ash continues to erupt from the Eyjaffjalljokull Mountain. Experts warn tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the volcanic ash cloud could jam jet engines.
Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, explained: “It is likely the production of ash will continue at a comparable level for some days or weeks.
“But where it disrupts travel, that depends on the weather. It depends how the wind carries the ash.”
Airport operator BAA has advised travellers to remain at home, and contact airlines before heading to airports.
A statement read: “Following the latest advice from NATS, all flights to and from all BAA airports are suspended until 01:00 Monday at the earliest.
“Passengers due to fly today should not travel to these airports until further notice, and should remain in touch with their airlines.
Take a look here for the Breaking Travel News guide to alternative travel solutions.
Photo Credit: Icelandic Coast Guard