Thousands of air passengers have
returned to the UK after a six-day flight ban caused by volcanic ash.
Others remain stranded overseas,
however, and travel companies think it may take weeks to repatriate everybody.
Despite the large backlog, London’s
Heathrow Airport has begun operating at 90 per cent normal service, with other
airports and airlines following its lead.
Officials from Airline
Co-ordination Limited said services at Heathrow Airport should be at 100 per
cent by Thursday but that figure includes only regularly scheduled flights.
The Department of Transport has
said that Heathrow, the UK’s main hub, will temporarily be allowed to accept 16
extra night flights late on Wednesday.
UK airspace was opened at 2200 BST
on Tuesday and despite the homecomings, flight cancellations and delays were
still in place throughout Wednesday.
In Madrid, Foreign Office Minister
Chris Bryant said it would be a “complicated” repatriation mission.
He said: “I really don’t want
to pretend that we can do everything because we can’t. The main thrust now has
to be by the airlines and tour operators.”
More than 95,000 flights were
cancelled across Europe over the past six days, with only a handful of flights
taking off and landing at UK airports.
The eruption of the Icelandic
volcano Eyjafjallajokull on Thursday sent vast amounts of ash into the
atmosphere and posed a threat to aircraft jet engines.
Scientists say the volcano is still
erupting but the ash plume is shrinking, although it remains changeable.
Air traffic control body Nats said
a dense concentration of volcanic ash continued to remain in an area over
north-west Scotland and could extend further south into Scottish airspace.
Restrictions were lifted after the
Civil Aviation Authority said safety tests showed plane engines had
“increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas”.
It has set down new requirements
for airlines such as conducting risk assessments and inspecting aircraft for
ash damage before and after each flight.
Anyone concerned about a stranded relative or friend
in the UKget the latest flight
and travel updates at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website www.fco.gov.uk
or call 011 44 207 008 0000.