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News | Wednesday, 19 May 2010 Issue. 164

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Flights operating normally as volcanic ash threatens UK

After Monday’s mayhem following the cancellation of Air Malta’s morning flights to Heathrow and Gatwick, with almost 500 passengers booked, the situation looked calmer yesterday as no flights were cancelled.
In fact, Easyjet’s EZY 8824 flight from Malta to Gatwick and EZY1998 to Manchester left Luqa Airport at 12.32 pm as scheduled and at 1.45pm respectively, more than two and a half hours behind schedule.
Ryanair’s FR 7243 flight from Dublin to Malta left at 1.02 pm, around 25 minutes later than scheduled.
Likewise, Thomas Cook Airlines’ TCX 623L to Glasgow left at 1pm, 15 minutes later than scheduled.
An Air Malta spokesperson confirmed to MaltaToday yesterday that there had been “no flight disruptions yesterday and all Air Malta flights operated as per normal schedule”.
Asked by MaltaToday as whether Air Malta was expecting any cancellations of flights in the next few days as a result of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, an Air Malta spokesperson told MaltaToday that the situation was “a rapidly changing one.
“Air Malta will keep monitoring the situation very closely and will advise its passengers of any changes in its flight operations as a result of any airspace restrictions.”
Likewise, a Ryanair spokesperson confirmed to MaltaToday that the low-cost airline did not cancel any flights yesterday.
However, Ryanair yesterday operated 14 extra flights to Dublin, East Midlands, Glasgow Prestwick and London Stanstead to and from the Canary Islands, Faro and Alicante to ferry stranded passengers back home, the Ryanair spokesperson said.
On Monday, Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair had cancelled its flights to and from Dublin and Easyjet did not operate its flights to Gatwick and Manchester.
On Sunday, Ryanair had also cancelled flights to Leeds while Easyjet rerouted its Manchester flights to Gatwick.
According to EUROCONTOL, the EU agency that coordinates air traffic control in Europe, around 1,000 flights across Europe were cancelled on Monday.
Asked by MaltaToday as whether EUROCONTROL was expecting any cancellations of flights yesterday as a result of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, a EUROCONTROL spokesperson confirmed yesterday that “no cancellations and no other significant disturbances to European Air Traffic due to the volcanic ash” were expected.
Yesterday, “no airport has been declared as no-fly zone”.
The EUROCONTROL spokesperson explained how the higher ash concentrations that had caused problems in the UK and the Netherlands on Monday “has further dispersed and what is left has moved into an area west of the Norwegian west coast.
“It is located on low levels and is not causing any significant disruption to European Air traffic,” the EUROCONTOL spokesperson added.
In addition, “higher ash concentration from the still erupting volcano can be found over Iceland stretching North East”.
Asked by MaltaToday whether, in view of the latest meteorological data, they were foreseeing any further disruptions or cancellations of flights in European airspace over the next few days due to the Icelandic volcano, the EUROCONTROL spokesperson said that “the current forecasts suggest that there should not be major disruptions to air traffic situation in Europe in the next few days”.
About 160 passengers sat in a plane for two hours on Monday after their flight to Amsterdam was delayed by almost six hours because of volcanic ash that caused disruptions across Europe.
The national airline was planning to operate an extra flight to London on Monday afternoon apart from its two scheduled flights to Heathrow and Gatwick to accommodate passengers booked on the cancelled morning flights.
Although the extra flight had to be cancelled because no slot was available, all passengers who wanted to fly were rerouted or put on scheduled flights.
“Things are constantly changing and there is no way to forecast how flights will be affected in the coming days,” a spokesperson for Air Malta was quoted as saying.
In fact, a look at the UK Met Office’s forecasts for ash over Europe show that while the concentration of ash over the UK, and the Netherlands was abated early yesterday morning at 06.00 GMT, the concentration of ash over these regions increased considerably from 12.00 GMT.
Transport Malta said the ash cloud was expected to persist over Ireland while parts could move over Scotland and others towards southwest England.
The scheduled visit to St Edward’s College by world famous teen super spy author Anthony Horowitz had to be called off due to the volcanic ash cloud that has disrupted a number of flights.
Horowitz was due to give writing workshops to senior school and sixth form students of English yesterday and today.


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