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Volcanic eruption in Iceland: hundreds of flights cancelled
Published on 25 May. 2011 12:40 AM IST
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Tens of thousands of families are facing air travel chaos today as a thick cloud of volcanic ash descends over the UK - despite Ryanair claiming the plume is 'non-existent.'
The towering plume of Icelandic ash, smoke and steam hit Scotland and Ireland last night, bringing disruption to airlines, leading to the cancellation of 252 flights - and forecasters say the plume is expected to reach Heathrow airport by 1pm.
But this morning Ryanair carried out a test flight 41,000ft over Scotland and branded the so-called 'red-zone- of ash cloud 'non existent and mythical and misguided invention by the UK Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority.'
British Airways and a host of other airlines last night cancelled all flights between London and Scotland until 2pm today, and the Civil Aviation Authority has said the ash cloud is moving unpredictably and changing by the hour.
However, while aviation chiefs deemed Scottish airspace to have a 'high ash concentration', Ryanair said it had written confirmation from both its airframe and engine manufacturers that it is safe to operate in the area.
'This morning's verification flight has demonstrated that the UK Met Office's 'red zone' forecasts are totally unreliable and unsupported by any evidence of volcanic ash concentrations whatsoever,' a Ryanair spokesman said.
European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said 252 flights had already been cancelled in Europe.
As well as Heathrow, air traffic control company Nats said ash is expected to affect other UK airports, including Londonderry, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Newcastle, Carlisle, Durham Tees Valley and Cumbernauld.
This lunchtime Heathrow airport said just some flights to Iceland, Norway and Scotland were affected at the moment and there was no indication of any further disruption.
The situation is also being closely monitored by Barcelona football club whose players are due to fly to London for Saturday's Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley.
British Airways is not operating any flights between London and Scotland before 2pm.
Scots regional airline Loganair scrapped 38 flights and Irish carrier Aer Lingus said it had cancelled 12 flights to and from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
British Airways announced that it would not operate any flights between London and Scotland before 2pm.
EasyJet also cancelled its flights from Glasgow until lunchtime.
At Glasgow today, most passengers whose flights had already been cancelled did not make their way to the airport.
Passengers with holiday companies Thomson and Thomas Cook were waiting for buses to take them to Manchester to pick up later flights.
The airport's cafes were packed and people sat on their suitcases or tried to catch up on sleep as they waited for news.
Despite the cancellations, experts are predicting the aviation industry will not be as badly affected even though the eruption is 10 times the scale of the one last year.

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