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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 16:41 UK
Recriminations grow over airline costs



A couple arrive in Heathrow airport"s Terminal 5 on April 21, 2010 in London, England. Airlines are beginning to resume a normal service following six days of airport closures due to volcanic ash from Iceland covering British airspace.
About 75% of European flights are due to operate Wednesday

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

1803 The BBC is discontinuing this live update page. For the latest developments, please go to our main news page.

1801 The flight restrictions mean that pollution levels in recent days have been dramatically lower, Iarla Kilbane-Dawe of the energy and climate change consultancy AEA Group tells the BBC. "Air pollution near London airports is down by about two-thirds. Roughly a few million tonnes of C02 emissions have probably been saved," he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader

1742 Ben from London says:

Just got called by a friend on QF32 stuck on tarmac - it was due to leave Heathrow for Singapore at 1205 but they are being told that they may not leave because air quality does not meet Qantas' higher standards - no other airline seems to have such concerns...

1735 Air traffic in Europe is expected to return almost to normal on Thursday, the body coordinating air traffic control across the continent says. "It is anticipated that almost 100% of the air traffic will take place in Europe tomorrow," Eurocontrol said.

e-mail sent in by reader

1735 Richard Barron from Bathgate, West Lothian, says:

If you are still stuck in Scotland then check out Twitter and search for the hashtag stuckinscotland. People have been posting things to do, offers and accomodation for quite a few days now. Good to see people caring for each other.

e-mail sent in by reader

1729 Jessica Joly from Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, says:

I was supposed to fly to the UK on Friday April 23, but BA gave its flyers the option not to go if their travel was not essential. With all the people stranded around the world, I felt that I should stay home, but now my tour company, popular with the 18-35 year olds, is charging me a $600 cancellation fee. None of the other companies that are involved with this trip have charged me ANY fees to make other arrangements. Unfortunately, "ethical decisions" about travel are not covered under even deluxe insurance packages.

1713 Eurocontrol, the air traffic control agency in Brussels, says 21,000 of the continent's 28,000 scheduled flights were going ahead on Wednesday.

KEY POINTS

  • UK and European airports reopen for business
  • Many flights still cancelled or delayed
  • Airlines begin to repatriate stranded passengers
  • 80% of European flights due to operate
  • Flight disruptions cost airlines $1.7bn (1.1bn)
  • Icelandic volcano has lost 80% of its intensity
Updated: 17:36 BST, 21 April

1655

A United Nations scientific adviser with 40 years of experience in studying volcanic eruptions says European authorities were right to shut down air traffic. "In the absence of reliable facts, the only thing to do was to stop aircraft from flying, given the risk to planes of suffering serious engine damage, perhaps crashing," Henri Gaudru, French president of the European Volcanological Society, said.

1635 Nick Clegg says there will have to be a "post-mortem" into the response to the crisis as his three young sons remain stranded in Spain. The Lib Dem leader said it was right to put safety first and that "party political point-scoring" would not help get Britons home.

1549 India's Jet Airways says it will resume full flight operations to and from Mumbai and Delhi to London Heathrow, as well as its flights to and from the United States and Canada with immediate effect. Jet Airways says it will also mount an additional flight to/from London from Mumbai on Thursday to assist stranded passengers.

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1544 kupsztal tweets:

Yay! There was no ash and the plane didn't crash ;-) back in the UK Read kupsztal's tweets

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1542 AhmNoHere tweets:

Now at Calais. Hundreds of people waiting on a train to the port. Read AhmNoHere's tweets

e-mail sent in by reader

1532 Graeme from Scotland says:

Have just spent four sleepless nights and over £2000 travelling back to Edinburgh from Mallorca. We got ripped off at every opportunity... £50 for a night in a horrible Palma hotel £200+ for the ferry from Mallorca, £850 for a hire car from Barcelona to Paris, £100 for a night in a disgusting Paris hotel, £250 for Eurostar, we got to St Pancras and the ticket desk there wanted £120 more than Kings Cross ticket desk for seats on the same train! Only non-rip off merchants were BAA car parks who waived the extra charges.... well done BAA!!

Claire Marshall

1525 The BBC's Claire Marshall at Birmingham Airport says:

"It really does feel like this airport is getting back to normal - people are coming and going, and about half the number of flights are arriving and departing." Some passengers thought they had not been given enough information, she added.

e-mail sent in by reader

1510 Ken Ananga from Nairobi, Kenya, says:

I've been stuck in Nairobi since Monday, when I was supposed to fly to London and resume work. I almost got the shock of my life when the travel agent said he's re-booked me to return on 29th May! I haven't got any good news to give at this moment I'm afraid.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

1505 Ryanair spokesman Steve McNamara tells the BBC that existing rules on compensation for stranded airline passengers were not meant for this sort of situation. "The airlines have probably done as much as they can reasonably be expected to do," McNamara said. "We're saying that it's now time to go back and look at those guidelines again because they don't apply in this case."

e-mail sent in by reader

1458 Emanuele D'Arrigo from Letchworth, UK says:

"Responding to Bethany Hoskin: Actually, somebody does care about people stranded in the UK." Mr D'Arrigo has started a Facebook thread to match those who can offer a roof and a bed with people who are stranded and can't find one.

1449 Writing for Discovery News, Michael Reilly says volcanologists think explosions like the ongoing eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano will become more common, and more violent. Here's his piece entitled, Will Global Warming Make Iceland's Volcanoes Angry?

e-mail sent in by reader

1440 Adam from London says:

I am on a flight as we speak, sat on the tarmac at Heathrow - heading to LA - shockingly, the flight is half full! Unreal, the rest of my party were told there was nothing until Sunday 25 at the earliest.

1430 Flights in and out of Shetland and Orkney are suspended as a volcanic ash cloud lingers north of mainland Scotland. And Aberdeen airport had to scrap flights to northerly destionations including Lerwick in the Shetland Islands and Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

Tim Willcox

1420 The BBC's Tim Willcox in Calais says:

"Thousands of people have turned up today, I've never seen queues this big. People have travelled by bus, cab or train to get here and are now faced with four to five hours' wait before they can get across the channel."

1404 Finland's main airport in Helsinki was closed again at 1500 local (1200 GMT) after being opened briefly. It will remain shut until at least 2100 local time, airport operator Finavia says.

1349 Officials say 90% of flights will be operating at Heathrow by 1500 today and service should be at 100% by Thursday. However, that figure includes only regularly scheduled flights, not efforts to clear up the backlog of passengers.

Claire Marshall

1341 The BBC's Claire Marshall at Birmingham Airport says:

"We've seen a rush of people arriving, but there are long delays in the departures because the flights have simply not arrived. The planes are in the wrong locations. People are finding it difficult to get any information, and a lot what they do get is conflicting accounts from the airline and the airport operator."

A plume of ash, dust and steam is seen coming from a volcano erupting beneath Iceland"s Eyjafjallajokull glacier
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano is still erupting, but producing much less ash.

1333 Dr Colin Brown of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London has studied the effect of volcanic ash on plane engines. He told BBC World Service: "We've been running test flights over the last four or five days and collecting information from the engines that have flown through those clouds and seen what damage the clouds done to them, and we've found that the damage is zero and so we're in the situation where we're now happy to continue flying through those clouds."

1320 Canada's public broadcaster CBC has compiled a by-the-numbers look at how businesses, travellers and Iceland have been affected as stalled travel in Europe slowly resumes.

1313 The National Trust says foreign travellers stranded in the UK will be given free entry to National Trust properties. Travellers have to arrive with their flight ticket from the affected period, together with their passport.

1305 Air India announces that it will resume normal flights to London, Frankfurt, Paris and Toronto. US flights are already operating as normal.

e-mail sent in by reader

1235 Scott English from Douglas, Isle of Man, says:

I'd like to say a grateful thanks to the man in Brussels last night who had chartered a bus down from Woolwich to take people home via the Eurostar. He managed to get 30 or so very tired people home days earlier than expected and also had to deal with a load of angry Brussels taxi drivers who tried to blockade the coach as they were furious that they could no longer try to scalp us with 1000 euro fares to Calais. Stuart, if you read this thanks once again!

1230 Britons stranded at Calais are staging a sit-in on a coach. Many are trying to get home from Munich, and claim their airline has let them down. "We have had to fight every step of the way to get here," one woman told the BBC.

1210 Prayers are said for stranded passengers in a 10-minute service at Gatwick's chaplaincy. Free Church Chaplain Gwen Cox said it had been a strange experience to see an empty airport.

Sarah Rainsford

1205BBC's Sarah Rainsford at Madrid airport says:

The first of a fleet of coaches sent to bring stranded Britons home from Spain is about to leave, carrying 55 passengers. A second coach is preparing to follow.

1149 The BBC's personal finance reporter, Kevin Peachey, examines the rights of passengers if their flights are disrupted by the ash cloud. He covers topics including: What happens if I am stranded and trying to get home? What about insurance? What happens if I cannot get back to work?

1144 Read about how a businessman in Scotland pays £5,000 to ensure a teenage boy can return home from Spain for his mother's funeral.

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1134 Eurocontrol, the European aviation authority, tweets:

UPDATE 11.00 CET: Almost all Eur. airspace below 20,000 feet avail. except restrictions, incl. in southern Sweden and Helsinki. Read Eurocontrol's tweets

e-mail sent in by reader

1130Bethany Hoskin from London says:

I know the volcano chaos must be difficult for the 'stranded' Britons overseas, but what about the 'stranded' foreigners in the UK that are also wanting to get home. No one seems to care about them! My mum and brother flew over last week from Australia for a quick visit to surprise my sister for her 21st birthday. They were meant to fly home yesterday but are now stuck here till 2 May - meanwhile my poor dad is at home alone while his whole family is overseas. They also have jobs to get to and things to do back home.

Pallab Ghosh

1110 BBC Science correspondent Pallab Ghosh assesses the lifting of the flight ban:

"Part of the problem faced by the regulator is that there's a limited evidence base with which to make an accurate risk assessment... Although the new threshold for safe flying has meant that UK airspace has reopened, the Met Office is continuing monitoring concentration of ash. And airspace could still be closed if the concentrations exceed the new threshold."

Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Andrew Haines on lifting flight ban

1102

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denies suggestions that British airspace was reopened because of pressure from the airlines. He said the "first responsibility of government [is] to make sure safety was paramount". The restrictions were lifted after the Civil Aviation Authority decided that the ash cloud produced by a volcano in Iceland was no longer a serious threat to jet engines. The Conservatives have criticised the government for failing to act quickly enough.

e-mail sent in by reader

1044 Martin and Lin Richter from Hastings, UK, say:

What! Have we just spent 60 hours getting back from Malaga, spent untold hundreds of pounds, not washed, slept or eaten to be told that firstly we could have flown on Sunday after all and secondly that our "cancellation insurance" may not pay out? We did the right thing in the circumstances and we are tired, dazed, confused and SKINT!

e-mail sent in by reader

1038 Neil Gad from London says:

Have been standing outside Heathrow terminal 3 since 0530... Things are moving for Virgin, American Airlines and a few others, but no sign of Cathay Pacific yet... It's pretty cold and they won't let us even stand inside.

Sarah Rainsford

1025BBC's Sarah Rainsford at Madrid airport says:

Desperate Britons stranded in Spain are being asked for up to 1,000 euros (£880) to hire a car to get home.

Ian Fergusson

1015 BBC Weather's Ian Fergusson blogs:

This morning's otherwise azure skies are criss-crossed by the high altitude contrails of airliners... They're a skyborne reminder of how we take modern air travel for granted. Read the blog here .

1006 The Economist outlines risk-management lessons from the volcanic ash cloud

e-mail sent in by reader

0955 Gary, a British businessman stranded in Shanghai e-mails:

Have just spoken to Virgin Atlantic and they have said I cannot fly until May 8th - I was meant to fly on 16th April! I need help and this is crazy, how can they expect me to wait over three weeks for a confirmed flight. The money has all gone and I will be on the streets and so far no sign of any financial assistance from the airline - I just want to go home!

e-mail sent in by reader

0949 Roger Gregory from Plumstead, UK says:

I'm sitting in Venezuela, hoping to fly back via Madrid, arriving Heathrow next Sunday. Looks like I just might be lucky. However, it occurs to me that we often get dust from the Sahara deposited on us in the south of England. That's also silica, the raw material for glass. Has this ever caused a problem?

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0935 aoyin426 in Hong Kong tweets:

Thanks to the volcano, we got FREE Lonely Planet iPhone app for main European cities until Thursday! Read aoyin426's tweets

e-mail sent in by reader

0929 Morgan says:

Flying has gone from nothing to all in the space of a few questionable hours. Eyjafjallajokull is still blowing, but there is not even one mention of it on the BBC front page (at the time of writing). I am cabin crew at Heathrow and when our captain meets us at the briefing table this afternoon, and he says let's go, then I will be content and not until I hear it from him.

Claire Marshall

0915 The BBC's Claire Marshall at Birmingham Airport says:

"The departure board is filling up with delays and cancellations, and few people are turning up."

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0845 Themanwhofell tweets: "I liked the ash cloud story because it was a story in which no-one was to blame. It was just nature. But apparently someone is to blame."

0855 The BBC's Jonny Hogg at Heathrow Airport says: "Heathrow airport remains quiet despite the partial reopening of British airspace. Staff here say that the situation in relation to flights in changing all the time, although British Airways say they plan to fly all long haul flights from the airport on Wednesday."

0840 A spokeswoman for Birmingham International Airport said it was now fully open, but was continuing to experience schedule disruptions. "We have had around 70 cancellations already today but things are expected to pick up this morning. There have been three departures and two arrivals so far," she said.

0838 The eruption of the volcano has lost nearly 80% of its intensity since the weekend, according to Iceland's civil protection agency, AFP news agency reports

0837 UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis tells BBC News: "It is safe for flights to be taking place today."

0815 A BA spokeswoman says: "We are expecting to see our long-haul flights going out from Heathrow this morning but we don't expect our first inbound flight to land until around 1300." The BA website says it will take time to return to a "full flying programme" because many aircraft and crew were out of position.

0810 Denmark will reopen its airspace at 0900 GMT, the national aviation authority Naviair announces.

0715 Britain's first flight leaves Glasgow airport for Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides, 15 minutes after Scottish airspace reopens.


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