Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 20:18 UK
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Hopes that UK flights would soon return to normal have been undermined by a second volcanic ash cloud in Iceland.

Chances to operate planes at many UK airports have been short-lived, and only a few flights have taken place.

Airspace in most of the UK remains closed until at least 0100 BST on Wednesday, but curbs have been eased in some northern parts of the UK.

Airlines said the restrictions were an overreaction, but the government said safety was its absolute priority.

In its latest assessment of conditions air traffic control body Nats said part of Scottish and Northern Irish airspace including Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh airports, will be available from 1900 BST on Tuesday to 0100 BST on Wednesday.

Part of map showing flights around cloud

Glasgow and Teesside airports will also become available for flights during this time.

But British Airways's attempts to land 12 of the 26 long-haul planes heading to the UK at London Heathrow have been thwarted after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) vetoed the plan and said no flights would be landing at the airport this evening. The 12 planes were diverted to Newcastle and elsewhere, including Brussels.

A CAA spokesman said: "They can't land in an area where Nats is not providing a service."

He added that if the planes had not been diverted, the CAA would consider prosecuting BA for breaching air rules.

A BA spokeswoman said the company was in discussions with Nats.

On mainland Europe, some 14,000 flights were expected to take off on Tuesday - about half the normal number.

Nats has allowed for "overflights" - flights that pass over UK airspace at an altitude above 20,000 feet - allowing for many flights between Europe and the Middle East and North America.

But that is little consolation for many of the estimated 150,000 Britons that have been stranded overseas as a result of the flight restrictions.

Airlines have begun to question the level of restrictions to UK flights.

David Henderson, of the Association of European Airlines, told the BBC the lockdown on flights was an overreaction.


He said: "We believe that flying should be taking place."

But Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said the safety of air passengers remained the "paramount concern".

The minister, who said he had maintained a constant dialogue with European and UK regulators regarding flights, added: "All decisions being taken by the aviation regulators are intended solely to protect the travelling public, and I will not compromise passenger safety."

He denied the government had sent mixed messages and said the coaches were being organised.

"We're seeking to provide an entry route in for planes coming from outside Europe to an ash-free airport where this new coach facility will be able to get people from there back to Britain," he said.

BA - no short-haul services on Tuesday, but 12 long-haul flights
EasyJet - flights to/from northern Europe, including UK, cancelled until 0100 BST on Wednesday.
Ryanair - flights cancelled to/from the UK, Ireland, and much of northern Europe until 1300 BST on Thu 22 and all flights between Ireland and the UK until 1300 BST Fri 23
bmibaby - Certain internal and European flights operating, some cancellations on Tuesday and Wednesday
*All passengers are advised to check with their airline before heading to the airport

It had been hoped that the intensity of volcanic eruptions was reducing, but the emergence of a new ash cloud has meant plans to reopen British airspace have been revised.

Jonathan Astill of Nats said the new ash cloud was a "significant change" to the situation on Monday.

He told BBC News: "The Met Office is reporting a further ash cloud that is coming down from Iceland and then covering the UK progressively during the day."

In a statement, Nats said: "The situation regarding the volcanic eruption in Iceland remains dynamic and the latest information from the Met Office shows that the situation will continue to be variable."

The British Geological Society said the latest eruptions have been less powerful, meaning the ash has not been sent as high into the atmosphere and is less likely to reach UK airspace.

Ministers are currently at an emergency government meeting - known as a Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meeting - to assess the situation.

Lord Adonis briefed ministers on his discussions with aviation experts, while David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said passengers were getting across the Channel and the additional spaces on ferries and Eurostar and the Eurotunnel had helped.

Airline schedules are constantly changing and passengers have been advised not to travel to airports until they have checked with their airline or tour operator.

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The spread of volcanic ash has affected large swathes of Europe for the past five days.

There has been huge disruption for air travellers, many of whom have embarked on long and costly journeys over land and sea to get home.

Mr Astill of Nats said the government is maintaining increased capacity for passengers to cross the channel.

There are an extra 20,000 passenger places a day across Eurostar, Eurotunnel and the ferries, according to Lord Adonis.

In other developments:

Anyone concerned about the safety of a British national stranded abroad can call a Foreign Office helpline on 020 7008 0000, or visit its website.

Stranded Britons should contact their local embassy, high commission or consulate.

A map showing an ash cloud

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