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Scotland, N. Ireland Airspace to Shut as Ash Thickens

Ryanair airplanes at Dublin International Airport
A file photograph shows Ryanair airplanes traveling down the runway at Dublin International Airport, in Dublin. Photographer: Crispin Rodwell/Bloomberg

Scotland and Northern Ireland airspace will close from 7 a.m. tomorrow as rising concentrations of volcanic ash from Iceland pose a risk to planes, and airlines including EasyJet Plc began canceling flights.

Emissions from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano have increased in density, and an ash cloud will keep moving south, possibly affecting airports in the north west of England and north Wales, the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority said on its website. The CAA said it expects all Scottish and Northern Ireland airports will be shut from 7 a.m. tomorrow.

The announcement followed an earlier closing and reopening of airspace over Northern Ireland, and six hours of flight restrictions imposed by the Irish Aviation Authority on flights in and out of the country.

“The situation is very dynamic,” the CAA said. “Passengers expecting to travel from the impacted airports should contact their airlines to check whether their flight is operating.”

EasyJet will scrub flights departing from Scotland and Northern Ireland before 9 a.m. tomorrow, according to an e-mailed statement from the Luton, England-based airline that cited an “ongoing volcanic eruption in Iceland.”

British Airways, Ryanair

British Airways Plc, the U.K.’s largest carrier, plans to keep the situation “under review,” a spokeswoman said, while Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest airline by passengers, canceled all flights to and from Belfast, Derry, Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick airports from 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow.

According to Dublin-based Ryanair, the Irish Aviation Authority also is cautioning that airspace over Dublin may close from noon tomorrow. A spokesman said the agency would issue a statement later.

The April 14 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull spread an ash plume thousands of miles, resulting in the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights across Europe. The disruption cost airlines about $1.7 billion in revenue, International Air Transport Association Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Bisignani estimated April 21.

At a meeting of European transport ministers in Brussels, the European Commission said it would lead work to craft plans for managing the risk from volcanic eruptions and present them to the International Civil Aviation Organization in September. The EC also pledged to speed efforts to create a so-called Single European Sky to ensure a faster response to future crises.

Coordination Cell

Measures will include setting up a “crisis coordination cell” made up of regulators including Eurocontrol, the body that coordinates flight paths across the region, and the European Air Safety Agency, that will organize the region’s response to emergencies, Spanish Transport and Development Minister Jose Blanco said.

An Airspace Blocks Coordinator will implement recommendations and a European network manager will be established before the end of this year.

More flights may be at risk of delays from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, because the northwesterly winds over the volcano “can blow ash over Ireland and disrupt air traffic there in the days to come,” said Helga Ivarsdottir, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office.

“The forecast for the end of the week and early next week indicates a stronger wind, which can have a greater effect,” Ivarsdottir said.

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