Page last updated at 19:40 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 20:40 UK

Volcano cloud as it happened: 19 April

Spanish passenger sits on his baggage at Bilbao airport in northern Spain on 18/04/2010
Millions of passengers around the world have been affected

Welcome to our as-it-happened coverage of the travel chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud over northern Europe. We followed the developments with breaking news, your e-mails and Tweets, experts' advice and insights from BBC correspondents. All times are BST.


2005Chris_Lamb tweets: My cardiologist [is] stuck in Miami - shall I live or die? Updates when possible! #ashtag Read Chris_Lambs's tweets

e-mail sent in by reader

1950Alison Graham from London says:

My sister and I were visiting friends in Delhi but have been stranded in Helsinki since Thursday. Finland is a lovely place but not quite the hot weather we packed for! The airline has refused to pay any of our costs, so buying a whole new cold weather wardrobe is proving expensive. We are re-scheduled to fly on Thursday turning a 90-minute stopover into a full week in Finland!


1936Keshavlohiya tweets: Stuck in Boston. Just got off a 2hr call from BA, latest flight I got is 26 April! Terrible. Read Keshavlohiya's tweets

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1916 William from London says:

Currently stranded in Southern California. Admittedly there are worse places to be stuck in the world, however my employer is now trying to make me take some or all of this as holiday leave. I was meant to be back in the office last Thursday.

1858 The BBC's Lorna Gordon in Iceland says:

Lorna Gordon reports from Iceland as the coastguard films the volcano

The cloud of ash spewing out of the volcano has - according to scientists here - dropped in height and is now drifting below 4,000m.

But while the ash in the atmosphere may be decreasing, the amount falling on the small rural community downwind of the eruption is still considerable. There is a thick layer of ash already lying, and the volcanic cloud has closed in again making conditions very difficult.


1847 Kateinedinburgh tweets: Booked to go down to Australia Friday night, haven't seen my family in a year, so excited if they manage to get me there! Read Kateinedinburgh's tweets

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1840 Paul from Motherwell says:

I travelled for 37 hours from Copenhagen to Motherwell leaving Copenhagen by car for a 1,500 mile trip through Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France to Dieppe, then a ferry to Newhaven, train to London then on to Glasgow. It can be done if you put your mind to it. I managed to make it in time for my 50th birthday with my family.

1800 Volcanologist Dr John Murray told BBC World Service that the ash that has been causing all the problems has diminished greatly: "As the situation is at the moment I should think things should be clear by tomorrow (Tues) evening, I am not a meteorologist.... but certainly if we don't get a sudden increase in ash again then - yes - I'd imagine things will clear up pretty quickly."


1757 Britt_W tweets: Got my Swedish friend on a freight ship to Sweden, with the help of the excellent @tweetalondoncab #ashtag #getmehome Read Britt_W's tweets

1755 European Union transport ministers say they have agreed a plan to gradually ease flight restrictions in European airspace. They have created three zones - European air traffic will be able to resume in designated "caution zones" where the threat of ash is considered less of a danger.

1749 Eurostar says it is making 30,000 extra seats available to help stranded passengers. These will be at the special price of £89 one-way. The seats will be available from Tuesday until Sunday. Thirty-three extra carriages are being put on to provide the extra places.


1742 British Airways says it is aiming to resume some flights into and out of London's airports from 1900 (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

It said this will however be subject to the full and permanent opening of airspace. All flights before these times have been cancelled.

1739 Bristow Helicopters is planning to operate a programme of flights from Aberdeen and Scatsta, Shetland on Tuesday.

Whist flying restrictions are expected to remain in force in some areas of UK airspace, the airspace over the North Sea is expected to be clear of contamination allowing flights to start during the morning.

Sarah Rainsford

1731 The BBC's Sarah Rainsford at Madrid airport says:

At the moment, passengers who were supposed to come through Madrid anyway - trying to get back to Britain, France and Germany - are stuck here. They are trying to find alternative arrangements, such as bus services to France, and then on to their home destinations.

Spain is offering to extend that service for British and European passengers who could be brought here from America, Latin America, Asia and Africa and then helped to get home by bus, ferry or train.

It would mean many more thousands of people, adding to a backlog of tens of thousands of European passengers already stranded here but Spain say it does have the capacity.

Robert Hall

1724 The BBC's Robert Hall in Calais says:

The good news here is that although there has been a steady stream of people into Calais - as fast as they are getting here, broadly speaking, they are getting onto ferries. The advice is that within a couple of hours of arrival you should be on your way across the Channel.

However, people have had horrendous journeys getting here. We've seen number plates from as far away as Finland and Turkey. People are coming overland - they've hired cars, clubbed together for mini-buses. Other people have tried the railways and run in to trouble with the French rail strike.

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1720Harry Heijkoop in London says:

I happen to live in Portugal and I am stuck in London. All I hear is about Britons who are stuck abroad, but what about people like me? Perhaps the Navy can bring me as far as Spain - will they be sailing empty ships to pick up Britons?

1719 The British Air Transport Association, which represents UK-registered airlines, has written to the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, asking for financial help.

A spokesman said: "We welcome the government's support for stranded travellers and we ask the government to stand behind the industry financially at what is a very difficult time."

He described the nature of the situation the airlines find themselves in as "critical".

1711 British budget airline Easyjet says the chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud has cost the company around £40m so far. The carrier says it has had to cancel 4,500 flights - affecting around 200,000 passengers - over the past five days, and is losing £5m a day.

1709 Manchester Airport says it will open the airport at 0900 on Tuesday, but as yet they do not know if there will be any flights.

1702 The French government says it will open air corridors for flights between Paris and southern cities while "partially reopening" some northern airports on Tuesday, the AFP news agency reports.

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1700Mark from Hornchurch, Essex says:

We have been stranded in Florida since Friday. We have spoken to Virgin and they have booked us on a flight on 1st May back to the UK.

We are having to pay accommodation expenses, car hire expenses and general living expenses. I have spoken with our holiday insurance and they tell me the best they can offer is £100 each for the whole period we are delayed.

I also have travel insurance with another company via my bank account. They say there is nothing they can offer as they will be treating this as a natural disaster.

Just goes to show what travel insurance is really worth... nothing.

1652 With the ban on flights lifted in parts of northern England from 0700 on Tuesday, Graham Mason from Newcastle International Airport explains what passengers should expect:

It's not likely to be our normal schedule - that would take a number of days to get back on track. But we are available for in-bounds, for repatriation flights for transatlantic, and there will be an element of our schedule, probably for those domestic services northwards of Newcastle.

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1635Chas Couchman from New Milton says:

Been stuck in Delhi since yesterday's flight was cancelled. Virgin have rebooked our group of 10 to 27 April but had asked us to take a refund so they would have no responsibility, something we refused. As an insulin-dependant diabetic I will soon run out of medication but until the ban is lifted I'm stuck and advised not to use Indian insulin.

1629 Head of the Passenger Shipping Association, William Gibbons, says its ferries in Spain are full and people should go to Channel ports instead:

We have two ferry routes to Spain from Portsmouth and Plymouth... we can't increase our frequency on those routes because we're fully committed and they are fully booked.

Where we do have spare capacity is in the Channel ports. If people can get to the Channel ports by car, even by train or by coach we will get them away.

1623 The Met office has warned that the volcano's activity has started to increase.

Ash cloud footage and advice from Met Office Scientist Derrick Ryall

A Met spokesman told the BBC that whereas eruptions had subsided this morning to between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, they had increased within the past two hours back to a height of 10,000 ft.

Although this is not back to the initial maximum height of 30,000 ft, the spokesman said the unpredictable nature of the volcano's activity meant that there was still cause for concern.

1620 The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has cancelled plans to travel to Finland this week because of the air travel chaos, US officials say.


1555LewisOnTheFloor tweets: I hope my girlfriend and her family (inc. a pregnant sister) get back from Tenerife or get to Spain to get a Navy boat! They went for ten days and were due to fly back last Friday, and obviously aren't able to get back yet! Still worried. Read LewisOnTheFloor's tweets

People at Ouistreham harbour in north-west France queue to board a ferry bound for England on 19/04/2010
Ferry firms are struggling to cope with demand

1551 Northern Ireland airspace will be open from 0700 BST (0600 GMT), says the air traffic control service (Nats).

1548 The latest Met Office advice is that the contaminated area will continue to move south with the possibility that restrictions to airspace above England and Wales, including the London area, may be lifted later on Tuesday, Nats says.

1546 Restrictions currently in place across UK-controlled airspace will remain until 0700 BST on Tuesday, Nats says.

From 0700 Tuesday, mainland Scottish airports and Scottish airspace will be open, and south to a line between Teesside and Blackpool, Nats advises.

1543 Uefa says the Europa League semi-final first-leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Liverpool FC will go ahead as planned.

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1539Paul Greenham is stranded in the Maldives. He says:

Normally it would be nice to get an extra week or so somewhere as lovely as this but we've got a problem - our daughter is getting married on Friday and I'm walking her down the aisle, so I need to be back in the UK... it's getting very close now.

Wyre Davies

1530 The BBC's Wyre Davies in Cyprus says the operation to move 500 British soldiers from 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, from Cyprus to the UK is under way.

Chartered civilian jets are understood to be taking the troops from a British base in Cyprus to Spain. The troops will then be taken to the UK from the port of Santander by the assault ship HMS Albion.

1518 Readers of the BBC News website were asked if they would be willing to fly if restrictions were lifted. Here are some responses:


The Laughing Man says: "Would I fly? God no. As someone with a bit of knowledge about aircraft it can be seen that the ash cloud does pose quite a large threat to safe flight, and as such, I wouldn't be willing to take the risk."

Magic Lantern says: "We know roughly where the ash cloud is - we can even put up more aircraft to monitor it - so I see no reason why the large commercial aircraft can fly at a lower level, out of the main ash cloud, until clear of it when they can climb to more efficient altitudes."

1517 Germany's aviation authority says it has granted Lufthansa permission to fly 50 planes back to Germany with some 15,000 passengers aboard, AP reports.

1501 Fulham's Europa League semi-final tie at Hamburg will go ahead on Thursday. Fulham says a contingency plan is in place to ensure the team arrives in Germany on time if they are unable to fly. Read the BBC's story here

1446 The Met Office advises that the volcano is now less active than previously.

The UK's air traffic control service says on its website that it is continuing to monitor the location of the ash cloud over the UK and "look for opportunities to get aircraft moving again, whilst of course maintaining safety".

Sanjoy Majumder

1440 The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says:

Flights to northern Europe and the UK remain suspended, leading to chaos in India's biggest airports, Delhi and Mumbai. Many passengers have been forced to camp outside airport terminal buildings in the heat after the airlines told them they were no longer able to pay for their hotel rooms.

The Indian government has set up a control room to co-ordinate between the airlines, the aviation authorities and the foreign ministry, especially as many foreign tourists have run out of valid visas.


1430 joeypierce tweets:

I am a refueller at Heathrow and I was rostered off shift the last four days. Missed out on £400 of overtime Read joeypierce's tweets

1427 The Lake District tourist office says hotels in the area are experiencing a surge in last-minute bookings, with demand particularly high from honeymooners stranded in the UK.

1421 British Airways says that analysis so far of its own test flight and those of other airlines "provides fresh evidence that the current blanket restrictions on airspace are unnecessary".

1410 Michelle Ulyatt of P&O Ferries says the company has seen 15,000 foot passengers over the last three days, where they would normally see only a few hundred.

They have called in additional staff on each sailing and have extra staff in port to deal with the increase. They are allowing an extra 1,500 people on each ship.


1406Maurik tweets:

Airlines are the ones complaining due to losses, but passengers generally accept the wait due to safety concerns Read Maurik's tweets

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1403Zong says:

I will not fly until we are 100% safe. Yes, airlines were losing money, people were stranded abroad. But what else is more important than human lives?

1357 The UK government confirms that there will be another emergency Cobra committee meeting this afternoon, but the timings are yet to be confirmed.

1352 The head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says its operations are "not affected" by the ash cloud.

1348 Scandinavian airline SAS says it has lost up to 29m euros (£25m; $39m) since its planes were grounded on Thursday.

1346 Mike Gore paid 2,200 euros (£1,935; $2,950) to get a taxi from the French Alps to Birmingham in the UK. He writes:

There were eight of us - five adults and three young children. It was a tough decision to part with the extra cash, which cannot be recovered from insurance - but with deteriorating prospect of a flight home and the cost of prohibitive cost of hotels and food in France, we were just relieved to get home.

1338 The vice president of Lufthansa Europe, Karsten Benz, says the airline carried out test flights on Saturday up to 26,000 feet.

"We can't report any effects on engines or on engine performance, even fuselage and cockpit windows are left without any damage.

"We think the correlation between the mathematical models which are used today and the situation in the air is no longer given."

1333Pamela Phillips, from Chichester in the UK, writes:

My two boys are stuck in Orlando and the eldest has to sit GCSEs soon. I am worried about him not getting back. Will the government talk to the exam boards and delay exams or make other arrangements?

I am completely beside myself. I fee very frustrated because I want to do something but can't. I can't afford to pay to fly them back to Madrid at £1,000 a head.

1327 The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the First Battalion The Royal Anglians are still stuck in Afghanistan due to the ash cloud.

They say just over 300 troops are currently in Cyprus - but that number doesn't include the Anglians who were due to arrive home to the UK from there tomorrow.

Sarah Rainsford

1321 The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid says:

The Spanish government has been discussing the possibility of flying passengers from around the world into Spain, especially those stranded in America, Latin America and Asia. Some 70,000 Britons are concerned, as well as other northern European passengers.

The Spanish rail operator has reported a 15% increase in demand for rail services, and is laying on extra services from Madrid and Barcelona to Paris.

The logistical challenge for Spain of becoming a central transport hub is massive and there are no details of how this will work yet.

1253 Spain has offered to let Britain and other European countries use its airports as stopovers for passengers trying to get home. Spain is one of the few countries with all airports open.

Jose Blanco, Spain's transport minister, said Spain would offer landing slots to planes diverted from other airports now shut because of the ash cloud. Train, bus and ferry services are also being increased.

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1244 Geoff Mayes, stuck in Istanbul writes:

I was over in Turkey covering a motor rally but am now stranded here. The organisers appear oblivious to our plight. It is a fiasco and we are rapidly running out of money! What evidence do we have that the ash actually damages the engines?

1221 Many schools around the UK are struggling to remain open with teachers and pupils stranded overseas by flight cancellations. Read the story here.

1217 British Airways says the UK flight restrictions is costing the airline about £15-20 million a day. BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh says airlines have asked the European Union for financial compensation.

Lorna Gordon

1209 The BBC's Lorna Gordon in Iceland says:

The top of the ash cloud reaching into the sky has lowered. It is no longer registering on weather radar and scientists estimate its maximum height is now around 3,000-4,000m. Mush less ash is now being released into the atmosphere compared to the beginning of this eruption and scientists say they believe the volcanic activity may now be entering a different phase.

1207 Nato fighter jets have suffered engine damage after flying through volcanic ash cloud, a senior US official has said. The official gave few details except to say that a build-up of glass was found in the jet engines.

1201 Finland says it is opening its main Helsinki-Vantaa airport at 1200 GMT for at least eight hours after a hole opened in the volcanic ash cloud in its airspace.

1200 SeaFrance, which operates the Calais-Dover service, says it has space available for cars on its sailings on Monday and is taking foot passenger bookings for sailings up until 2000 BST.

1154 The latest blog entry by the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tells how social media sites are being used to help stranded travellers get home.

1153 Extra carriages are being added to trains serving the Irish Sea ferry ports of Holyhead and Fishguard in Wales.

1151 Hungary fully re-opened its airspace from 1000 GMT, the national air traffic controller HungaroControl announces.


1143 Dutch airline KLM tweets: KLM test flight Amsterdam-Paris landed safely at 11.40hrs. Technical inspection points out: no problems detected. Read tweets from European airline carriers on Die Zeit online

1134 Jacques Cailloux, chief European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), told BBC World Service that they estimate the European economy is suffering an output loss of around $500m a day because of people being absent from work.

Icelandic President Olaf Ragnar Grimsson: "It's an important lesson for all of us"

1132 Scores of musicians, stranded in the UK because of the travel disruption, are now looking for work. Simon Cooke, managing director of Ronnie Scott's in London, says the club has been deluged with calls from musicians hoping to play the club this week as their flights out of the country remain grounded.

1129 Read about what the British government plans to do to get stranded Britons home. This page will be updated throughout the day.

1126 The European Union's transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, tells a news briefing that the economic impact to the airline industry could be greater than that caused by the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001.

1123 The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt writes in his blog: "The carriers are desperate to get back into the skies. Their losses are rising. Some now say they are collectively losing $250m (£163m; 185m euros) a day. What they are doing is challenging the national civil aviation authorities to ease restrictions."

1120 Head of the International Air Transport Association, Giovanni Bisignani, says the transport chaos is "a European embarrassment and it's a European mess". Read the story here.

1117 The UK's Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says his brother-in-law has "rashly offered" to drive his three children back from Spain, where they have been stranded, to one of the French channel ports.

1115 BBC science correspondent Tom Feilden writes in his blog: "Just because planes can take off, fly around a bit and come back unscathed, doesn't mean it's safe".

1114 Germany is sending up a special flight with instruments to test the amount of volcanic ash in the nation's airspace.

The transport ministry says the findings will help to determine whether it is safe to launch and land planes in Germany.

1101 Thousands of Kenyan farm workers have been temporarily laid off because the flight ban to Europe means the harvesting of flowers and vegetables has had to stop. Read about it here.

1100 The P&O Ferries website is currently down, having crashed through sheer volume of traffic.

1058 HMS Albion is on its way to Santander in northern Spain, where it will collect about 220 UK troops who will have flown in from Cyprus.

The troops are on their way home from serving in Afghanistan. Another 300 got back to the UK on Sunday by coach and ferry.


1057allanedwards tweets from Essex: So the navy is being sent to rescue stranded Brits? Maybe now it will get properly funded in the future. Read allanedwards's tweets

Nick Ravenscroft

1050 The BBC's Nick Ravenscroft at Manchester Airport says:

Today, Manchester Airport is much like the Marie Celeste. There are very few people here. Now it's pretty clear there aren't going to be any flights for sometime, I think most passengers have decided to stay at home.

The exception is people from overseas, for whom flying is the only real option. There are a fair few passengers still stuck here, from Japan, the United States and Australia, who are wondering around looking bored to tears.

The other group of people we have seen here are those who live in the area. They're not passengers, but they are just curious to see what is happening here.

1038 Listen to Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy's poem, written especially for the Today programme, on the guilty pleasure of ash cloud "quiet".

1036 Norfolkline Dover-France Ferries, which usually transports cars and freight, says it is providing coaches on its ferry services to help nearly 400 foot passengers get to and from the UK.

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1031 French tourist Busi Daniel, stranded in Hong Kong, says hotels are cashing in on the flight ban:

Yesterday we have a price of a room at 250 euros (£220; $335), at midday it was 460 euros, and in the evening, the price was 800 euros a room, for a day - we can't pay that.

1030 Only 30% of flights in Europe are expected to get off the ground today, according to the air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol.

1026 Read the BBC News website's story about the Royal Navy being drafted in to help stranded air passengers.

1025 Holiday companies Thomson and First Choice announce plans to bring home 5,000 UK holidaymakers stuck in the Spanish resorts of Alicante and Malaga, by coach and ferry.

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1001 Michael Pruchnie, a businessman stuck in Baku, Azerbaijan, says:

My decision is to stay here and wait for the situation to clear. There were some 30 foreign people stuck - 10 Brits and Indians, Norwegians and Italians.

Discussions must have sounded to the outsider as a meeting of WWII prisoner of war escaped officers trying to decide the best way to get home. No despair, just realistic assessment and free and open comments and suggestions.

0949 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Royal Navy ships will be used to transport stranded UK citizens back home.

HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean are currently moving towards an unspecified Channel port. HMS Albion is on its way to Spain.

0941 French railway company SNCF says it will offer reduced fares and 80,000 extra seats between Paris and London this week to help stranded passengers, the AFP news agency reports.

0939 The whole of Czech airspace will reopen at 1200 (1000 GMT) on Monday after being closed for three days, the authorities say.

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0937 Alice Pegrum, a British university student stranded in China since Saturday, writes:

We are staying at university accommodation and are not being given any information. With little money and support, we are all struggling to afford our unexpected longer stay.

I was due back at university today. Some are jeopardising their degrees by missing dissertation deadlines and important exams. We have been emailing our lecturers to inform them of our situation.

0934 The Press Association reports that thousands of UK airline workers could soon be laid off as a result of the crisis.

One of the options being considered is making staff take their holidays now, industry sources told the UK news agency.

0920 Romania is to re-open its main Bucharest airports from 1200 GMT and may re-open all its airports on Tuesday, Prime Minister Emil Boc announces.

Wyre Davies

0918 The BBC's Wyre Davies in Cyprus says:

Several hundred UK troops returning from Afghanistan have been stuck in Cyprus over the weekend. The Ministry Of Defence is going to extraordinary lengths to get them out.

Some 200 troops have already made it back to the UK via flights to southern France and onward coach journeys. The remainder may now be flown to Spain where they could be met by civilian or Royal Naval ships to take them on the last leg of a long journey home.

0916 UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis confirms that the government is considering using Spain as a hub to repatriate stranded British citizens, with the help of the Royal Navy.

0910 BBC weather presenter Ian Fergusson, based in western England, writes about the visible deposits of volcanic dust seen around the UK. Read his blog here.

0905 Director of Monarch Airlines, Tim Jeans, has warned it was "entirely unrealistic" to think the Channel Tunnel or ferries can cope with the numbers wanting to cross from Europe to the UK.

"So some kind of mobilisation of transport, whether it be naval ships or other transport across the Channel is imperative," he said.

e-mail sent in by reader

0900Luke Banham, in Reading writes:

I was meant to be getting married to my US fiancee. We've waited almost a year for the visa. I booked my flight for Friday and now can't fly! So I re-booked for Monday 19, but that was also cancelled. I have now rescheduled my flight for the first available which is Saturday 24 April. I just pray it doesn't get cancelled again.

Lorna Gordon

0858 The BBC's Lorna Gordon in Iceland says:

The authorities here are monitoring this eruption around the clock. The volcanic activity has, they say, decreased compared to recent days, and the plume of steam and ash has for the time being lowered in height.

0855 The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has criticised European governments' response to the volcano crisis and has called for an urgent re-think on a "blanket closure".

"Governments must place greater urgency and focus on how and when we can safely reopen Europe's skies," head of Iata, Giovanni Bisignani said.

0853 Italy had to urgently re-close its northern airspace after briefly opening it on Monday morning. Flights will be grounded until at least 0800 (0600 GMT) on Tuesday, the aviation authorities there say.

0847 Denmark reopens its airspace for flights above 35,500 feet but restrictions on planes flying below that limit will remain in place, the Danish air traffic controller Navair says.

Robert Peston

0842 The BBC's Business editor Robert Peston says:

The two biggest British airlines are incurring painful losses. British Airways is losing around £25m ($38m) a day and Easyjet up to £5m per day.

Ministers are telling me that a Europe-wide financial support scheme for the airline industry - funded by taxpayers - is a very live issue.

0833 Restrictions on UK flights are to remain in place until at least 0100 Tuesday, the air traffic control service (Nats) says.

0823 The British government's emergency planning committee, Cobra, is meeting with the air traffic control service (Nats) this morning to discuss the crisis.

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