Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A cloud over travel plans

After the major disruption that the last volcano in Iceland caused for travellers to and from the UK, we did wonder what would be the effect of the second erupting volcano.

Thankfully, the ash cloud from the second volcano left British airspace early on Wednesday morning according to Nats, the air traffic controller, and it is now in place over northern Germany.

Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, said after a meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency planning committee, yesterday that he was "cautiously optimistic" the worst disruption was over.

He also described as "irresponsible" remarks by Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary that the Civil Aviation Authority should allow flights in Scotland, after the Irish carrier sent a test plane into Scottish airspace to test ash levels.

Mr O'Leary said the plane had not encountered any ash, but Mr Hammond said the Ryanair test flight had not passed through any high-density ash areas.

A Met Office spokesman said on Wednesday morning concentrations of ash would "reduce significantly" over the next 12 to 24 hours.

However, much of the UK could be affected by the ash cloud on Friday if the volcano continued to erupt at "current levels", he added.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, said British Airways, which forms part of the business, had conducted a test flight through the ash cloud's "red zone" on Tuesday.

He said: "The levels [of ash concentration] we are talking about are tiny.

"We flew in the red zone for about 45 minutes at different altitudes over Scotland. The aircraft then returned and has been examined and the simple answer is we found nothing."

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