Some German airports shut because of Iceland volcano

Ash from the Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn that caused hundreds of flight cancellations in the UK, Denmark, and Norway yesterday has now moved over Germany, shutting down airports in the north of the country.

Hamburg and Bremen airports are closed. Berlin airport will probably close this morning as well. At least 600 flights are expected to be affected.

Poland may also be affected today but otherwise flights in, out, and around Europe should be operating. There may be knock-on delays because of the disruption in Germany so check ahead before going to the airport.

In better news, Grimsvötn has stopped erupting. Let’s hope it keeps behaving.

Have you been affected by the volcanic ash? Feel free to vent in the comments section!

[Micrograph of volcanic ash courtesy US Geological Survey]

UPDATE: (9:23 EDT) The BBC is reporting that Hamburg, Bremen, and Berlin airports have reopened. About 700 flights were cancelled.

Iceland volcano cancels flights

Here we go again.

After last year’s misery from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, now another Icelandic volcano, Grimsvötn, is causing a new round of worries.

More than 250 flights have already been canceled as a cloud of volcanic ash blows over Scotland. Most of Ireland, northern Wales, and northern England will see the ash later today.

Several Scottish airports have been affected, including major ones such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. Other airports that will likely have problems today include Londonderry, Prestwick, Durham Tees Valley, Newcastle, and Carlisle. Officials say the cloud should move on and flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow will resume this afternoon. Airports in the far north of Scotland should get the all-clear tomorrow. Of course, that’s assuming there are no more eruptions or changes in the wind.

Luckily the wind has taken much of the ash away from populated areas, over the far north Atlantic, eastern Greenland, and north of Scandinavia.

Several airlines are not flying through Scottish airspace. You can see a full list here. Since the northerly route between Europe and North America passes through the ash cloud, transatlantic flights may have to be diverted, causing delays. Check ahead before going to the airport.

So far this doesn’t look like another Eyjafjallajökull. The Grimsvötn eruption is smaller and the ash particles are bigger, meaning they fall to earth more quickly instead of hanging in the atmosphere for days.

Have your travel plans been affected by the Grimsvötn eruption? Tell us about it in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Roger McLassus]

Ryanair announces profits despite tough year

Budget carrier Ryanair announced 341 million euros ($419 million) in profits for the first quarter of this year, despite the economic downturn and a loss during this time last year.

These profits will be whittled away thanks to taxes, an estimated 50 million euro ($61.5 million) loss from the Icelandic volcano, and a 3 million euro ($3.75 million) fine the Italy slapped them with for stranding their passengers, but considering the state of the economy it’s still impressive.

In a further show of strength, Ryanair is going to pay a 500 million euro ($615 million) dividend to shareholders, the first time it has done so.

The airline credits a 14% rise in passengers and lower fuel costs as the main reasons for the profits.

Photo courtesy Abutcher15 via Wikimedia Commons.

UK eases airline ash restrictions

The United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced it will double the amount of ash deemed safe for flying in order to ease further disruptions to service from Eyjafjallajökull’s continuing eruptions.

The move comes after massive pressure from the airlines both during and after last month’s airport shutdown.

A CAA press release states, “A new area of operations can now be introduced that creates a ‘Time Limited Zone (TLZ)’ between the black ‘No Fly Zone (NFZ)’ and the red ‘Enhanced Procedures Zone (EPZ)’. Aircraft and engine manufacturers, based on new research and analysis, have agreed that it is safe to allow operations in the new zone for a limited time at higher ash densities than is currently permitted.”

Ash in this new zone can be 0.004 grams per cubic meter of air, twice the prior limit. The new regulations come into effect at noon today.

Airlines are, of course, happy. Jim French, chief executive at Flybe, said that if he new rules had been in place during the latest disruption of the past 48 hours, he would have only had to cancel 21 flights instead of 381.

Heathrow, Gatwick, and other airports disrupted

A large cloud of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano is sweeping across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, shutting down airports all across the islands.

Heathrow and Gatwick were closed until 7am local time and have been operating on a limited capacity with numerous delays and cancellations. This morning Gatwick had the strange situation of being able to allow planes to take off, but its approach path, which was closer to the ash cloud, was closed and no flights were able to land.

Airports also faced disruptions in parts of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the Isle of Man. Rail services are adding extra trains to deal with stranded air passengers. Currently only Belfast City, Londonderry, Shetland, and Orkney airports are closed, but most other airports in the region are still trying to catch up after numerous delays and cancellations.

As the cloud continues to move south and east, it may cause disruptions on mainland Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol, Rotterdam, and Groningen airports in The Netherlands are closed until at least 2pm local time.

The Met Office, a UK weather predicting service, is predicting the winds over Iceland and the North Atlantic will shift to a more easterly direction in the coming days, blowing the ash up into the arctic regions and away from more populated areas. They have created maps showing the predicted spread of the cloud.