Thursday, April 15, 2010

Erupting Volcano Grounds Flights

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Erupts (ICELANDIC COAST GUARD/AFP/ICG)
 Iceland's Volcano Disrupts Flights

Latest Updates:  Europe Travel Woes Continue

Dangerous ash spews from Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, in this photo courtesy of Icelandic Coast Guard, causing widespread flight cancellations across Europe.  Not since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has there been such a major disruption in air traffic.

Non-emergency flights in Britain were canceled, and most will stay grounded until at least midday Friday. Authorities in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium also closed their air space. France shut down 24 airports, including the main hub of Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and several flights out of the U.S. had to return, others were canceled or rerouted around the ash cloud.

Current Volcanic Events - Iceland (Credit: NOAA)
It isn't known when flights can resume. According to scientists in Iceland, the erupting ash cloud could continue for days. The ash plume drifted at between 20,000 feet and 36,000 feet towards Northern Europe 1200 miles away. 

Nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAAC) around the world are responsible for advising international aviation of the location and movement of clouds of volcanic ash.

Current Volcanic Ash Advisories (VAA) from London and Toulouse 
London VAA: Issued advisories | Issued graphics     Toulouse VAA: Issued advisories

Ash Plume across the North Atlantic (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Volcanic ash consists of microscopic rocky particles that pose a threat to aircraft  because they can affect the pilot's visibility and get sucked into airplane engines, causing them to shut down. The ash can also clog other vital instruments, such as air speed indicators, which control the aircraft.

More information from NOAA about volcanoes.
Flights Canceled

Impact on Major European Airports

Flights between Iceland and the rest of Europe as well as between the United States and Northern Europe are greatly affected due to safety closure of extensive airspace between Iceland and mainland Europe to avoid airborne volcanic material from this large eruption in Iceland.

Latest Updates:  EUROCONTROL Air Traffic Control
Also consult individual airports and airline carrier's websites.

Keflavik International Airport is not closed. Flights to North America are scheduled, but many flights to Europe have been delayed or cancelled.

London's Heathrow International  Airport halted flights stranding tens of thousands of passengers as a result of the billowing ash cloud.  All non-emergency flights in British airspace have been canceled until at least 7 A.M. Friday, 16 April.  Volcanic Ash Advisory from London VAAC

Copenhagen Airport also closed all inbound and outbound traffic from late afternoon today until at least 12 P.M. Friday 16 April.

The Irish Aviation Authority has indicated that restrictions in Irish airspace will continue until 11:00 A.M.  tomorrow at a minimum, effectively stopping flight departures and arrivals at Dublin Airport and the 3 other international and 7 other regional airports.   IAA Lifts Restrictions on Shannon and Cork

Oslo Airport   has canceled all flights to and from Oslo, Norway until further notice. Based on weather forecasts, they don't anticipate a change in conditions for 16 April.

Air traffic at all Swedavia airports is now canceled. The forecast is that the situation will be the same during Friday. Most likely there will be very large disturbances in air traffic then as well.

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport   came to a complete standstill at 19:00 15 April as all air traffic in and out of the Netherlands came to a gradual halt.

Belgian airspace closed due to the volcanic ash.  All flights in and out of Brussels Airport were suspended from today Thursday 15 April at 16:30 until Friday 16 April at 18:00.

Air traffic is restricted in all 25 Finnish airports operated by Finavia. Practically, the air traffic is completely shut down.  As of the latest update, the restrictions are approximately valid until Saturday 17April, 3 pm.  Information about the situation on other airports in Finland: Airlines contact information can be found at Helsinki Airport website.

Poland's Krakow International Airport is now included in the no-fly zone, so flights are canceled.   This brings great concern to Polish Officials awaiting arrivals of many world leaders for Sunday's state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, in the southern city of Krakow.   President Obama is among the dignitaries expected to attend the funeral.  

Some flights are taking off from Moscow's airport, but not those to Northern Europe. 

This list of airports is not complete - there are just too many impacted by this eruption

The closures are causing a cascading effect on air traffic across the world.   Cruises will be impacted as passengers become stranded due to the flight cancellations and delays.   We will post updates from the major cruise lines as information becomes available.  Contact your travel insurance company if your flight is impacted by this grounding.

United  Airlines has canceled all flights on April 15 from the United States to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels and Moscow. United flights from those cities to the United States have been canceled for April 16.  Waivers have been issued allowing for flights to affected countries.  Other Airlines have done likewise - check with your carrier if you are scheduled to fly to or from Europe.

Cruise Line Announcements

UPDATED INFORMATION:  Europe Travel Woes Continue

Cruise lines with passengers affected by the flight delays are monitoring the situation.  In some cases, such as Royal Caribbean, rebooking fees are being waived.  In other cases, departure times may be adjusted to allow air-sea passengers to arrive before departure.  Continue to monitor links provided here for updates on conditions and any itinerary changes.   

Your travel agent or cruise line may need to contact you directly, so be sure they have your contact information.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story.

No comments: