Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 08:40 UK

Ash cloud disruption threat to Devon's economy

Planes at Exeter Airport
Exeter Airport said the disruption to flights has serious cost implications

Flybe and Air South West have cancelled all flights from Exeter and Plymouth because of the continuing threat from a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

Air traffic control body Nats has said the cloud is now covering all of the UK and the ban on flights has been extended until 0700 BST on Tuesday.

The Devon and Cornwall Business Council has estimated the region's economy lost at least £8m last week alone.

Forecasters said the ash cloud could remain over the UK for many more days.

Experts fear rock, glass and sand particles from the volcanic ash from Iceland could jam aircraft engines.

'Thumb twiddling'

Jim French, the managing director of Flybe, has questioned whether the "no-fly zone" is necessary.

"This is the first time in the UK and Europe we've had such a situation, but others have experienced such situations in the past," he told BBC News.

"Let's use their expertise to make sure we're all doing the best we can to repatriate people, to get people home and to get commerce and business moving again."

Exeter Airport said the disruption poses it huge cost implications, with about 300 employees and no income being generated.

"There's a lot of thumb twiddling going on," airport spokesman Stephen Ayres said.

"It's a big empty space, so if anybody's got any ideas as to what to do with an empty airport, we'd welcome suggestions."

'Fortnight wait'

People attempting to return to Devon or Cornwall have been told they may have very long waits for flights.

BBC South West Business Correspondent Neil Gallacher, who is attempting to returning to the UK from Japan, has been told he faces a two-week wait.

He said: "According to my airline, Emirates, I won't be getting back for a bafflingly long time.

"I can leave Osaka tonight [Monday] as planned. But, once I get to their Dubai hub, there's no onward flight to London.

"What surprises me is that I won't be rejoining work or family for nearly another fortnight. That's the soonest they've been able to offer me space on a UK flight."

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