Tens of thousands of airline passengers across Northern Europe face travel chaos today after a mushroom cloud of volcanic debris from Iceland heads towards the Continent.
The UK has been particularly badly disrupted as the huge ash cloud moves across a major flight path, causing gridlock for the thousand of families returning from their Easter holidays.
The ash cloud has been created by Eyjafjallajokull volcano, near Reykjavik, which erupted on Tuesday following several weeks of heightened activity.
UK airspace has been closed since midday and all flights to and from Scotland cancelled due to server visibility problems.
British Airways has cancelled all domestic flights today, and is offering its passengers alternative travel dates or refunds. Ryanair’s schedules have also been severely disrupted.
Heathrow and Gatwick airports have grounded more than 250 flights, whilst Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Belfast have been closed their runways.
All airports are urging travellers to check with their relevant airlines to see whether flights have been affected.
“Following advice from the Met Office, the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has introduced restrictions to UK airspace this morning as a result of volcanic ash drifting across the United Kingdom from Iceland,” a spokeswoman for Stansted Airport said.
“These measures currently affect Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports which are closed but may also affect other parts of the UK later today,” she said.
The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre has issued a forecast that the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption in Iceland will track over Europe tonight.
The ash cloud is expected to spread into continental Europe overnight, and could take several days to clear.
Extreme caution in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption is paramount. Not only does the ash severely hamper visibility, it can also cause engines to malfunction. In 1982 a BA 747 lost power on all four engines after flying through a volcanic ash cloud.
Real time updates of how flights are being affected at www.radarvirtuel.com