News / Europe

Volcanic Ash Again Disrupts European Air Travel

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Sabina Castelfranco

Volcanic ash from Iceland's erupting volcano is again grounding flights in Europe as it continues to spread across the continent.  Millions of travelers are being affected as flights are canceled and delayed.  Civil aviation authorities say the disruption could last for several more days.  

The European Air Traffic navigation and safety organization, Eurocontrol, says it expects further flight disruptions across European airspace as a plume of ash from the Icelandic volcano snakes through southern France, Switzerland and northern Italy.

The ash, stretching up from the surface to about 6,000 meters, has forced the closure of a number of airports in northern Italy.  The Italian civil aviation authorities announced there would be no flying over a large part of the north of the country most of Sunday due to the ash cloud.

The airport in Venice, a major tourist destination, has so far been spared and is still open for travel.  But other popular arrival points, like Pisa and Florence are closed.  Passengers are being urged to check details of their flights before traveling to airports.

Millions of travelers in Europe and also those arriving and leaving the continent are being affected.  Flight delays and cancellations are expected across Europe on Sunday as the ash cloud continues to disrupt international travel.  It is unclear how long the volcanic ash travel misery will last but authorities expect it could run into next week.

On a normal day, European air traffic control centers handle between 26,000 and 30,000 flights.

Until the volcano in southern Iceland stops its emissions, the future course of Europe's ash crisis will depend heavily on the prevailing winds. The eruption of the glacier-capped volcano has shown no signs of stopping since it began belching ash April 13.

The five-day closure of European airspace last month due to the ash cloud forced the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights.

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