CHAOS could continue at Heathrow well into the weekend as a volcanic ash cloud led to the closure of more airports across Europe.
Air traffic controllers at NATS warned that the unprecedented closure of UK airspace was unlikely to be lifted last night (Thursday), while its European counterparts also started to feel the heat.
Staff had thousands of stranded passengers on their hands yesterday as dust from the first Icelandic volcano to erupt in 200 years turned the UK into a ‘no-fly zone’.
The historic grounding of all UK flights was put in place at noon after the Met Office warned the thick cloud of volcanic ash at 20,000ft above sea level would be enough to clog aircraft engines.
Last night the cloud was continuing to spread, causing the closure of more airports across Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and Russia.
With thousands of flights cancelled and tens of thousands of passengers waiting to be rebooked, airline staff say the chaos is set to continue long after the ash clears.
A statement from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “In accordance with International Civil Aviation policy, we are restricting flights within the area affected by the ash cloud generated by the Icelandic volcanic eruption.
“We took this decision in order to maintain safety. We continue to work with our neighbouring air navigation service providers to minimise the impact on our aviation customers.”
Scientists have also raised concerns that the relatively minor eruption under Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier is historically followed by a second more serious eruption of a neighbouring volcano, Katla.
In a statement, the Met Office, which is advising the CAA, said: “The Met Office is continuing to monitor the spread of the ash plume from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on Iceland.
“Volcanic ash can be dangerous for aircraft, causing damage, reducing visibility and potentially clogging engines. We will continue to produce forecasts of the ash cloud and will assess the impact into the weekend. Importantly, the current high pressure conditions over the UK are resulting in the ash cloud remaining at high levels in the atmosphere with little possibility of any reaching the ground within the UK.”