By Shane McGinley
German, Scandinavian flights at risk as ash drifts across North Sea, authorities say
Emirates Airline said Wednesday it has scrapped a number of flights to Germany as a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland drifts across the North Sea, affecting airports in northern Germany,
Emirates flights EK059 and EK060 between Dubai and Hamburg have been cancelled and passengers have been offered alternative arrangements, a spokesperson confirmed.
On Tuesday, an Emirates flight from Newcastle to Dubai was unable to operate due to airspace restrictions immediately around Newcastle Airport which prevented the aircraft's departure. Earlier in the day, the Dubai-based carrier’s flight to Glasgow Airport was diverted to Manchester Airport, after airports in Scotland were closed due to drifting ash.
"All other flights to and from the UK and Europe continue to operate as per the schedule,” Emirates said in an emailed statement.
Grimsvotn volcano erupted on Saturday, belching smoke 20km into the sky in its biggest eruption since 1873. By the close of Tuesday, more than 500 flights across Europe had been cancelled over fears of drifting ash causing damage to aircraft engines.
In northern Germany, Hamburg and Bremen airports cancelled takeoffs and landings, and German authorities said Berlin terminals could also face closure on Wednesday.
Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based agency responsible for some of the world's busiest air corridors, said the ash cloud may also affect parts of Denmark, southern Norway and southwest Sweden on Wednesday.
Glasgow and Edinburgh airports said they expect flights to resume this morning. The UK air traffic control body NATS said no ash was expected over Britain from 1am on Wednesday.
The cancellations have raised fears of a repeat of last year’s travel chaos, following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano. The ash cloud caused the cancellation of 100,000 flights, stranding 10 million passengers and costing the industry an estimated $1.7bn in lost revenue.
Emirates, the Arab world’s largest airline, lost an estimated $66m in lost revenue and additional costs from the ash cloud that caused chaos last year.
Worries about the effect of the ash cloud pushed forward US president Barack Obama's planned departure from Ireland after he arrived on Monday night in Britain to begin a state visit.
Airlines, already struggling under the weight of sky-high fuel costs, now face the spectre of significant losses should the ash cloud continue to spread.
British Airways, which saw a 13.5 percent drop in its MENA traffic in the second quarter of 2010 as a result of last year’s ash cloud, grounded all flights from London to Scotland and Newcastle on Tuesday as a precautionary measure, a spokeswoman said.
Trans-Atlantic services suffered “minor delays” taking longer routes to avoid Iceland, the airline said.
Dutch carrier KLM said it would cancel 19 flights on Wednesday to and from Britain, Norway, Sweden and Germany. It expected to operate all other flights as scheduled.
Spokesmen from Amman-based Royal Jordanian, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Doha-based Qatar Airways said they were monitoring the situation in northern Europe, but said no flights had been affected.