Sparks fly as flights are canceled due to ash
LONDON — Ash spewing from an Icelandic volcano is bringing disruption and days of uncertainty to more parts of Europe, and officials in Germany said dozens of flights would be grounded today.
Hundreds of flights were canceled yesterday as winds blew the cloud of ash from the Grimsvotn volcano over Scotland and other parts of Europe. Particles in the ash could stall jet engines and sandblast planes’ windows. The volcano began erupting on Saturday.
Some critics called the response an overreaction, however.
Officials in Iceland said the amount of ash being released is decreasing, and they don’t expect as much disruption as last year, when millions were stranded after Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted.
Travelers trying to go to or leave Scotland have been hit hardest, but the problem has also begun to affect Germany. Takeoffs and landings at the Bremen and Hamburg airports won’t be allowed early today. And authorities said it may be necessary to halt traffic into and out of airports in Berlin and Hannover.
In Sweden, 10 domestic flights were canceled last night.
British authorities said concentrations of ash in the skies over Scotland were too high to fly through. “All the data we are receiving confirms our forecasts, that there is high-density ash over Scotland,’’ said Barry Grommett, spokesman for Britain’s weather agency.
The Irish budget airline Ryanair challenged the conclusion.
“Exactly as we predicted, we encountered absolutely no problems,’’ said Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary. “There’s no cloud over Scotland. There’s no dusting of ash on the airframe or the wings. The airspace over Scotland should never have been restricted in the first place.’’
The International Air Transport Association complained about the British government’s handling of the issue, saying it should have had planes ready to carry out tests, instead of relying on the weather service.
Still, Ryanair was forced to cancel flights in and out of Scotland, as were seven other airlines.
In Edinburgh, passengers faced either a wait or overnight stays in the city.
“I’ve been told I’ll get home tomorrow, but who knows,’’ said Kgeld Westh, of Copenhagen.