Southampton flights affected by ash cloud

SOUTHAMPTON AIRPORT 98/0955-1. MRW 20/2/98''***ONE OF A SERIES OF NEW FILE PIX/FROM AIRSIDE***'SOUTHAMPTON AIRPORT TERMINAL.'PICTURES BY MALCOLM R. WELLS
SOUTHAMPTON AIRPORT 98/0955-1. MRW 20/2/98''***ONE OF A SERIES OF NEW FILE PIX/FROM AIRSIDE***'SOUTHAMPTON AIRPORT TERMINAL.'PICTURES BY MALCOLM R. WELLS
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MOST flights from Southampton to Scotland are operating again, after a period of delays and cancellations today caused by the Icelandic ash cloud.

Flights to and from Scottish airports were cancelled as major airlines faced chaos amid the drifting ash.

Those departing from Southampton were cancelled before lunchtime but most are up and running again now.

A statement from Southampton Airport said: ‘The airport is open with the majority of flights operating, including to Scotland with the exception of Aberdeen. However passengers are asked to make contact with their airlines to confirm travel arrangements.

‘We will continue to provide regular updates our website and on Twitter if the situation changes.

Travel plans were thrown into disarray for hundreds of passengers while even US president Barack Obama was forced to amend his itinerary, flying into London earlier than planned to avoid the dense plume drifting towards the UK.

The incident has caused confusion and arguments within the air transport industry today as passengers braced themselves for days of uncertainty caused by Iceland’s latest volcanic ash cloud.

In Britain the Met Office said the fallout from the Grimsvotn volcano had moved over parts of Scotland, prompting a warning to airlines that they had to seek permission to fly to and from the area.

And hundreds of flights were cancelled as a result.

But budget airline Ryanair immediately challenged the results. It said it had sent its own plane into Scottish airspace and found no ash in the atmosphere.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: ‘Exactly as we predicted, we encountered absolutely no problems.

‘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 main international body representing carriers, the International Air Transport Association, complained to Britain about the way it had handled the issue, saying it should have had its own planes ready to carry out tests, instead of relying on the weather service.

But other airlines were more willing to follow official advice. Aer Lingus, said it had cancelled 20 flights between Ireland and Scotland.

‘We take the advice given to us,’ said a spokesman. ‘We have no reason to question the advice being given to us by the aviation authorities at this time. We need to accept what the experts in this area are telling us.’

The European Cockpit Association that represents pilots warned airlines against allowing their planes to venture into areas with even moderate ash concentrations.

Secretary general Philip von Schoppenthau said the association ‘cannot accept under any circumstances any flights into the red zone, even if these are approved by airlines.’

The Grimsvotn volcano began erupting on Saturday, sending clouds of ash high into the air that have then been carried toward the British Isles on the wind.

Brian Flynn, head of network operations at Eurocontrol said between 200 and 250 flights had already been cancelled today and warned that up 500 flights could be affected.