Ash delays, re-routes trans-Atlantic jets

Cloud forces closure of airports in northern Spain

Ash delays, re-routes trans-Atlantic jets

Flights will have to be re-routed north over Greenland or south over Spain to avoid the 2,000-km-long cloud stretching from Iceland to northern Spain, Eurocontrol said. This will increase flying times by about an hour in either direction.

“We assume that basically most of the trans-Atlantic flights will have to be re-routed on Saturday,” Eurocontrol spokeswoman Kyla Evans said.

Approximately, 600 airliners make the oceanic crossing every day. Around 40 per cent of the flights will be re-routed southward and the rest will skirt Iceland from the north.

The plume of ash also forced the closure of 15 airports in northern Spain on Saturday and is expected to expand into southern France during the day, carried along by Atlantic winds. Spain’s main international airports of Madrid and Barcelona were expected to remain open.
Just over 100 flights were cancelled at mainland Portugal’s three international airports on Saturday because of the ash cloud, the national airport authority ANA said.

“During the day, the area affected by volcanic ash is expected to extend from Iceland, south to Portugal and possibly as far east as Barcelona and Marseille,” a Eurocontrol advisory said.

Until Eyjafjallajokul, the volcano in southern Iceland, stops its emissions, the key to the future course of Europe’s ash crisis will be the prevailing winds. The eruption of the glacier-capped volcano has shown no signs of stopping since it began belching ash on April 13. It last erupted from 1821 to 1823.

Since the ash is reaching altitudes of up to 35,000 feet, right in the path of most trans-Atlantic flights, it will effectively block the usual routes.

Eurocontrol said this would cause significant congestion, particularly in the airspace over Spain and Portugal where many of the diverted flights are heading.

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