Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 14:04 UK

Volcanic ash disrupts Northern Ireland flights

Passengers wait at George Best Belfast City airport
Passengers find a comfortable spot at George Best Belfast City Airport

A no-fly zone has been put in place at Northern Ireland's three airports on Wednesday, as the risk of volcanic ash continues to disrupt travel.

Restrictions were put in place at Belfast City and International airports by the Civil Aviation Authority at 1300 BST, following a morning of disruption.

City of Derry Airport remains closed for the rest of the day.

The situation has been changing hour by hour and the no-fly zone will be re-assessed by the CAA at 1900 BST.

It has advised passengers to check with airports before travelling and warned the situation was changeable.

Flybe has announced it has cancelled all flights for the remainder of the day to and from Belfast city, Glasgow and the Isle of Man

In the Irish Republic, the Irish Aviation Authority has put in place restrictions at Dublin Airport until midnight.

Several flights left Belfast City Airport on Wednesday morning, despite earlier advice that Northern Ireland airspace would close from 0700 BST.

This was revised overnight, but the news came too late for some airlines and passengers.

Map of ash cloud as of Wednesday morning

Last month, volcanic ash clouds from Iceland grounded flights for six days.

Forecasters say the winds are expected to change on Thursday, with all UK airspace being clear of ash for the next few days.

On Tuesday, flights into and out of the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and Scotland's Hebrides were suspended at the first sign of an increase of volcanic ash levels in the skies.

Flights over Europe were banned last month because of fears of the effect of volcanic ash on plane engines.

The decision to lift the restrictions followed safety tests that showed the engines could cope in areas of low-density ash.

The fresh disruption on Tuesday came as European Union transport ministers met in Brussels to agree measures they hoped would help prevent further disruption to air travel as a result of volcanic ash.

The steps include speeding up current plans to integrate Europe's airspace, creating a "single European regulator for a single European sky".

The meeting came after criticism from the airline industry that governments took an over-cautious approach to the ash cloud crisis last month, grounding flights unnecessarily.

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