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Nightmare for air passengers begins as hundreds of flights are cancelled and volcanic ash threatens half-term getaway
By DAVID DERBYSHIRE and RAY MASSEY
©On the ground: A car drives towards the erupting Grimsvotn volcano which has sent thousands of tonnes of volcanic ash into the sky
BA, Easyjet, Loganair, KLM and Eastern Airways all cancel flights after Civil Aviation Authority warning
Passengers stranded overnight at Edinburgh airport as chaos starts with 252 flights cancelled
Ash cloud expected over Heathrow at around 1pm
All flights from Heathrow and London City airports to and from Scotland cancelled
President Obama cuts short his stay in Ireland to avoid effects of ash cloud
Aviation sector says it is better prepared than last year
Transport Secretary warns of further disruption in the week ahead
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Stranded: Passengers sleep on the floor at Edinburgh Airport after their flights were cancelled late last night
Tens of thousands of families are facing air travel chaos from today – and into the half-term holidays – as a thick cloud of volcanic ash descends over the UK.
The towering plume of Icelandic ash, smoke and steam hit Scotland and Ireland last night, bringing disruption to airlines, leading to the cancellation of 252 flights - and forecasters say the plume is expected to reach Heathrow airport by 1pm bringing further chaos.
British Airways and a host of other airlines last night cancelled all flights between London and Scotland until 2pm today, and the Civil Aviation Authority has said the ash cloud is moving unpredictably and changing by the hour.
©Closer to the source: A plane flies past smoke plume from the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano in Southeast Iceland but flights in Britain are being cancelled
©Stationary: Eastern Airways, which has cancelled all flights to an from Scotland, now has its planes standing still at Aberdeen Airport
Shortly after 8am the Met Office said that high level densities of ash were likely to be confined to Scotland and northern England today.
A Met Office spokeswoman went on: 'The weather is uncertain over the next few days. We have a low pressure system moving in tomorrow and there could be some westerly winds.
'However, very small changes in weather patterns can make very large changes in how the ash will move.'
Between 30 and 40 BA flights will be affected from airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and London City to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The airline runs 80 flights a day between these airports.
©Pink lightening: The stormy conditions around the Grimsvotn volcano look dramatic but authorities insist that it poses a lesser threat than the last ash cloud
©Problems: The departures board at Edinburgh Airport shows the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud already
Royal Dutch Airlines KLM cancelled the 16 flights scheduled for this morning to and from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle.
The airlines said customers on any cancelled flights will be able to claim a full refund or rebook on to alternative flights – and that all other flights will operate as scheduled.
A BA spokesman said: ‘We would urge customers not to travel to the airport if their flight has been cancelled.’
At least 36 flights were cancelled in Scotland last night and today, as airports across Britain were put on stand-by for imminent disruption.
Easy Jet, Aer Lingus, Flybe, KLM, Logan Air and Eastern Airways have all cancelled flights to and from Scotland.
Ryan Air has been ordered by the Irish Aviation Authority to cancel flights to and from Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
©Presidential flight: Barack Obama and Air Force One touch down at Stansted Airport last night after he was forced to rearrange his plans because of the ash cloud
'Perhaps it's a little bit too early to be absolutely sure about that, but clearly that's the most important thing - if the ash stops belching out of the volcano then, after a few days, the problem will have cleared, so that's one of the factors.
'The other is the wind speed and direction. At the moment the weather patterns are very volatile which is what is making it quite difficult, unlike last year, to predict where the ash will go.
'The public can be absolutely confident the regulators that airlines are only able to operate when it is safe to do so.'
U.S. President Barack Obama flew from Ireland to London last night – a day early – to ensure the cloud does not delay his state visit.
©Haves and have nots: President Obama flew early so he could avoid being stuck in Ireland longer than he wanted, but these stranded passengers at Edinburgh Airport didn't have that luxury
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©Grey skies: Emergency services vehicles in Kirkjubaearklaustur are covered in a thick layer of the volcanic ash from clouds that are now passing over Britain
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How are we going to get home? Tourists leave the Islandia Hotel yesterday in Nupur as ash continue to pour out of the erupting volcano
What happens now depends on three things. How long the volcano continues to erupt (this could be days or just hours); how the airlines decide to interpret the ash guidelines issued by the Civil Aviation Authority – which is unknown – and, lastly, the weather.
With a fair wind and a bit of geological luck, holidaymakers might manage to get away as planned this weekend.
But if, like the millions of Britons who enjoyed the blissfully silent skies of April last year, Iceland’s trolls and elves decide they too appreciate the silence of plane-free skies, we could be looking at yet another week of travel nightmare for millions.
UK airspace is 'better prepared' for volcanic ash cloud as flights could be threatened

source: dailymail