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Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery

NEWS
Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery
Sunday, May 16, 2010

NEWS••• Travel chaos is set to return to Britain with fresh threats from an Icelandic volcano and of British Airways cabin crew strikes.

British aviation authorities on Sunday reintroduced a no-fly zone over parts of Northern Ireland as the volcanic ash cloud returned to the skies over the U.K..

They also warned some of the U.K.’s busiest airports, including London’s Heathrow, could close in coming days if the ash cloud drifts southwards as forecast.

The return of the ash cloud, which caused the mass closure of British and European airports in April, comes ahead of a planned five-day strike by British Airways cabin crew on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

British Airways will seek an injunction in the High Court in London on Monday in an attempt to stop the strike, which threatens the travel plans of thousands of the airline’s customers around the world.

If the strike goes ahead, it is likely to compound problems caused by the return of the ash cloud.

In Northern Ireland on Sunday, Belfast International and Belfast City airports as well as Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man all had flights cancelled until at least 01:00 pm BST (08:00 am EDT).

Britain’s Transport Department warned there could be further disruption across the country until the middle of the week thanks to ash blowing across from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoell.

The ash cloud is expected to reach London by Tuesday, threatening the cancellation of flights at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports.

Forecasters believe the ash cloud will begin to drift away from the U.K. on Wednesday when the wind direction is expected to change.

Air passengers travelling to and from Britain in coming days are being warned to check with their airlines before heading to airports to find out if their flights have been cancelled.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the government was carefully monitoring the situation and that passenger safety was its main concern.

‘We have taken the decision to publish five-day forecasts as we want airlines, other transport providers and the public to have the best possible information,’ he said.

‘However, the situation remains fluid and these forecasts are always liable to change.

‘NATS – the U.K.’s air traffic services provider – will advise of any airspace closures as and when they become necessary and I urge passengers to check with their airlines before taking any action.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond is preparing to intervene in the dispute between BA and its cabin crew in an attempt to avert up to 20 days of planned strikes in the next four weeks.

Mr. Hammond is to hold emergency talks with both sides on Monday.

British Airways insists that 70 percent of flights, will still operate if cabin crew walk off the job.
» Cabin crew will walk out from May 18 to 22, May 24 to 28, May 30 to June 3 and June 5 to 9, which will cover the school half-term holidays and a bank holiday.
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
» Check your flight information here: British Airways

• Source(s): U.K. Press & British Airways

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