The UK-wide flight ban is expected to be lifted as early as tomorrow morning, with Scottish airspace confirmed to reopen at 7am. Flights will then operate through night times in a bid to clear the huge backlog.
A statement confirm is expected later this afternoon but the news will come as a huge relief to the millions of travellers stranded abroad.
Pressure has been rising on European governments to end the ban which was introduced last Thursday. Transport Secretary Lord Adonis today said there had been a “dramatic decrease’” in the volcano’s activity, and hinted towards lifting the ban. “It may be possible to start opening some UK airspace tomorrow,” he said.
Scottish airspace will reopen first, followed by the Midlands around midday and London’s airports around 6pm.
Sources at Heathrow is quoted in the Daily Mail saying: “Every door of every terminal will be manned by police and airport security. Unless you have a print-out of a document which proves you are on a flight leaving on Tuesday night, you will not be allowed in the terminal.”
“Flights will operate through the night. The night restriction will therefore be lifted but there will be a slower rate of flights per hour – 25 flights per hour compared to the usual 50 flights per hour. There will be fewer flights taking off and fewer landing by half.”
In its latest update, the National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS) confirmed that Scottish airspace is due to reopen on Tuesday. It said flight restrictions will remain in place for most of the UK but could be lifted later on Tuesday if the situation continued to improve.
It added: “Assuming there are no further significant ash emissions, we are now looking at a continuously improving situation.
“This is a dynamic and changing situation and is therefore difficult to forecast beyond 0700 local.
“However, the latest Met Office advice is that the contaminated area will continue to move south with the possibility that restrictions to airspace above England and Wales, including the London area, may be lifted later tomorrow.”
BAA reacted to the latest announcement by issuing a statement that read: “The decision to lift airspace restrictions will be taken by others, and as things stand all flights remain suspended. When airports do open for business, we will continue to strongly advise passengers that they must check the status of their flight with airlines before travelling to airports.”
Thomas Cook says it is bringing long-haul customers back to European destinations, where it will be easier to transport them home. The first of these arrived from the Dominican Republic into Faro, Portugal yesterday and holidaymakers are being flown back to Alicante, Spain from Cancun today. These customers will be accommodated in local hotels while coaches and ferries are arranged for their onward journeys.