Flights resume as ash fear recedes

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European airports have reopened for
business, almost a week after a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano
paralysed the industry.

About 75 per cent of European
flights are due to operate on Wednesday, according to air traffic agency Eurocontrol.

But delays are expected, as
airlines try to cope with the backlog from the cancellation of 95,000 flights.

International air transport group
IATA says the disruptions have cost the industry $1.7 billion.

Iceland’s civil protection agency
said the Eyjafjallajokull volcano had lost nearly 80 per cent of its intensity
since the weekend, although the situation remains changeable.

Travel analysts said passengers
with current tickets would be given priority, and those who were affected by
cancellations would be put on waiting lists.

Britain reopened its airspace from
2200 local time (2100 GMT) on Tuesday, allowing long-haul flights to land at
Heathrow airport, Europe’s busiest. A flight from Vancouver, Canada, was the
first to arrive.

British Airways said it would
operate all long-haul flights departing from Heathrow and Gatwick airports on
Wednesday, but warned that there would be short-haul cancellations to and from
London airports until 1300 local time (1200 GMT).

Air traffic controllers in Germany
said all restrictions on the country’s airspace had been lifted, while Air
France said it would resume all long-haul flights from Wednesday, although it
added that services in parts of northern Europe would stay suspended.

Around the world, airlines began
putting on extra flights to clear the backlog of stranded travellers.

Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Cathay
Pacific and Virgin flights have begun taking off from Australia and New
Zealand, while Air China and Japan Airlines announced that all their Europe
flights would also be departing.

European Transport Commissioner
Siim Kallas has denied the EU took too long to respond to calls for airspace to
be reopened, saying people’s lives were at stake.

The flight ban was imposed because
in the high temperatures of an engine turbine, ash can turn to molten glass and
cripple the engine.

For all the chaos that the
Eyjafjallajokull volcano has already created, scientists say the ash cloud may
only be the start. There are concerns the eruption could set off the nearby,
larger Katla volcano, which sits on the Myrdalsjokull glacier, but officials
said no activity had been detected. Its last major eruption was in 1918.

Cayman residents can now get the latest developments
on the flight situation in and out of the UK.

A press release issued by the
Governor’s office, advises people to get the latest flight and travel updates
at the  Foreign & Commonwealth Office
website www.fco.gov.uk or call 011 44 207
008 0000.

TOPTravelchaosSTORY

An Air France airplane takes off as part of the gradual resumption of flights at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris Tuesday.
Photo: UPI
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