Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 19:09 UK

First flights to Scotland as NI airspace reopens

A worker at Belfast City Airport protects an engine of a stranded plane
A worker at Belfast City Airport protects an engine of a stranded plane

The first flights to Scotland since UK airspace was closed have taken off from George Best Belfast City airport.

However, air safety officials said that the skies over England and Wales would be closed until 1300 BST on Saturday.

All flights except those to the Isle of Mann were grounded for a second day on Friday as volcanic ash from Iceland drifted across Europe.

It is estimated that the Northern Ireland economy is losing about £1.5m each day as a result.

Economist Neil Gibson said the cost of the disruption is racking up.

"The average visitor to an airport spends perhaps £50 on taxis, food and products," he said.

"If we think of maybe 30,000 to 35,000 people being affected each day, you are maybe looking at a loss of £1.5m or a little over that a day to the economy."

Take off

Flybe flights between Belfast city airport and Glasgow are back on schedule.

The airline's flights to and from the airport connecting to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle will resume as normal on Saturday morning.

But the airline has cancelled all of its flights south of a geographical line between Manchester and Leeds Bradford until 1300 BST on Saturday.

British Airways has cancelled all flights to and from London on Saturday.

Ryanair has cancelled all of its flights across northern Europe until Monday at 1300 BST.

The airline's flights to and from the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Northern France, Northern Germany, Poland and the Baltic States are cancelled.

More than 65,000 people have been affected by flight cancellations at Northern Ireland's airports .

At Belfast International Airport, flights were cancelled until at least 1900 BST.

A spokesman said that not all flights would operate after that.

"The decision to operate rests with each airline," he stressed.

All flights to and from the City of Derry Airport have been cancelled with the exception of Friday evening's flights to and from Dublin.

In the Republic of Ireland, Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports have resumed transatlantic flights.

But all Ryanair and Aer Lingus flights to and from the UK remain cancelled.

Passengers should check with their airlines in all cases.

In all, Belfast International Airport cancelled more than 150 flights on Friday and 130 on Thursday, affecting 45,000 people.

At Belfast City Airport, 125 flights were cancelled on Friday, affecting about 11,000 passengers. Ten thousand were affected on Thursday.


Some flights to and from the Isle of Man have resumed

Flights to many parts of Europe will still be disrupted because of the plume moving down over northern Europe.

Flights to northern parts of Germany, France and Poland have been grounded.

Over the next 24 to 36 hours, prevailing winds will shift slightly to drive the central part of the ash plume further to the north toward Scandinavia, according to BBC weather forecaster Matt Taylor.

"However, later this weekend, they will return to a northwesterly direction and are more likely to bring the risk of ash back to the UK," he said.

Although the winds can be predicted, the crucial factor is how much ash the still-erupting volcano is pumping into the atmosphere.

Money lost

Airspace closed:
Partial closures:
Republic of Ireland (most airspace opened Friday)
Sweden (northern airspace opened Friday)
Norway (limited flights in north)
France (northern airspace)
Germany (most airports closed)
Poland (most airports closed)
Austria (closures from Friday pm)
Czech Republic (full closure expected later Friday)

At the seaports, ferries operated as timetabled on Friday.

P&O Irish Sea services between Larne, Troon and Cairnryan had spaces available for both vehicles and passengers on all sailings.

Norfolkline's evening sailings to Liverpool (Birkenhead) from Belfast and Dublin are both fully booked.

Stena Line said it had an extra 2,000 passengers on Thursday and was expecting the same on Friday.

The continuing volcanic eruption caused cancellations across Europe amid fears the ash could cause engine failures.

Experts say the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud from the still-erupting volcano could jam aircraft engines, as has happened in previous incidents of planes flying into plumes of volcanic ash.

So far an estimated 600,000 passengers have been affected in the UK.

Extent of Iceland volcano ash cloud

The volcanic eruption in Iceland on Wednesday night sent plumes of ash thousands of feet into the air. The cloud has spread across the UK to Europe.
The spread of the ash cloud at 20-30,000ft raised concerns for air safety, forcing at least 12 countries to restrict or halt flights in their airspace.
The eruptions from the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano continue to pump out ash clouds sporadically, which means the disruption is set to continue.
Although the cloud is too high to pose a health risk, people with breathing problems have been advised to take extra care if it falls to ground level.
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