300 UK, Irish flights halted as ash cloud returns

Hotel News - 06/05/2010

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Activity at the Icelandic volcano with a tongue-twisting name once again has air travel tied in knots. The level of airborne ash from Eyjafjallajökull has risen, prompting authorities in Britain and Ireland to close several airports.

A combination of increased ash density and shifting winds led to the move, which forced carriers to ground some 300 flights. Planes already airborne and bound for closed airports were diverted to alternate destinations.

Airports in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin and Belfast were closed for up to 12 hours, causing the worst disruption to aviation since last month. April’s six-day ban on flights in controlled airspace across most of Europe is thought to have cost airlines $1.7 billion.

So far, however, experts say the volume of dust coming out of the volcano is radically lower than the huge plume that left thousands of travelers stranded and carriers reeling from the effects of lost sales, increased costs and PR headaches.

Disagreements over compensation for passengers caught in the April fiasco continue. Regulators say airlines must pay passengers’ costs for dealing with cancelled flights. Many insurance policies are refusing to pay travel claims. In the UK, airlines want government help to deal with the expense of what carriers call a gross overreaction by authorities.

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