(Reuters) – A new cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland triggered fresh disruptions in European air travel on Sunday, with Ireland shutting down several of its airports and Britain imposing a no-fly zone on parts of its airspace.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said three northwestern airports were closed from early Sunday and hub Dublin would shut from 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) until at least 4 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT) on Monday morning, but indicated that the disruption was not likely to last very long.
“The outlook (for) later tomorrow looks better, I wouldn’t be too optimistic for the early part of the day but the later part of the day looks better and as the week goes on, it should improve,” IAA Chief Executive Eamon Brennan told national broadcaster RTE.
Ash from the same volcano wreaked havoc on European air traffic last month, when some 100,000 flights were canceled and left millions of passengers stranded. Airlines lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association said.
North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected despite the cloud drifting over the country. Cork and Kerry, as well as Shannon — an important stopover for flights to the United States — are open until further notice.
Western airports Sligo, Donegal and Ireland West (Knock), shut earlier on Sunday, will remain closed until 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT).
Britain’s National Air Traffic Service said a no-fly zone over parts of Scotland and England had been extended from 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) to 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT) on Sunday. It also extended the reach of the zone south to include the Birmingham and Norwich areas.
“As a result of the disruption to UK airports we are running four additional services on Monday 17th May,” Eurostar said, adding that an extra 3,500 seats would be available on routes linking London and Paris.
British rail operator Virgin Trains said it would provide an extra 7,000 seats through Monday, mainly on the Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and London to Glasgow routes.
London airports were not yet affected, but the government has warned that parts of British airspace might have to close until Tuesday with different areas including the southeast, where Europe’s busiest airport Heath
row is located, likely to be closed at different times.
Teeside, Leeds-Bradford, Blackpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Doncaster, Carlisle, Humberside and East Midlands airports fall within the no-fly zone, as do all airports in Northern Ireland, NATS said. Airports in parts of Scotland and the Isle of Man will also be affected.
The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland is continuing to erupt with no signs of the explosive activity about to end and an ash plume reaching heights of 25,000 feet, Britain’s Met Office said.
“Winds are expected to blow mainly from the northwest for a time over the weekend with the risk of ash affecting some parts of the UK,” it said.
“However, winds are predicted to swing into a south westerly direction by the middle of next week, which would take most of any ash away from the British Isles.”
Elsewhere in Europe, German airlines’ association said no restriction of German air traffic was expected due to the ash, and German airlines were operating flights as normal. Airline Lufthansa said it was conducting a test flight to collect data over Europe to measure the ash concentration.
In the Netherlands, an Amsterdam Schiphol airport official said there were no expected closures in Dutch airspace.
Much of Europe’s airspace was shut down for six days in mid-April over fears that ash from the Icelandic volcano would cause aircraft to crash. Since then ash has periodically forced short-term closures of parts of airspace in Europe.
British Transport Minister Philip Hammand said on Saturday that from now on five-day — rather than the previous 18-hour — ash prediction charts would be made available to airlines and the public on the Met Office forecaster’s website.