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NASA image of ash rising from the Grimsvotn volcano yesterday. AP Photo/NASA

Aer Lingus cancels Scottish flights as volcanic ash cloud moves closer

President Obama won’t be the only one inconvenienced by ash from the Grimsvotn volcano, however IAA says it still doesn’t expect any disruptions to air travel in Irish space in the next 24 hours.

AIRLINES HAVE announced flight cancellations to and from Scotland due to the spreading ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano.

Dublin Airport said this evening that Aer Lingus has cancelled 12 scheduled flights from Ireland to Scotland tomorrow. The airline has posted details of the flights here on its website.

KLM cancelled 16 of its flights to Scotland and England tomorrow and British Airways cancelled all of its morning flights between London and Scotland for tomorrow.

Scottish regional airline Loganair cancelled 36 flights scheduled for tomorrow morning, while small airline Eastern Airways cancelled all of its flights to and from Scotland due to fly tomorrow. Iceland’s main airport has been closed for over 30 hours due to the eruption, although some of the country’s airspace has reopened.

Some of the first casualties of the volcanic ash are US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, whose morning flight from Dublin to London has been brought forward to tonight over fears the ash could prevent them taking off tomorrow. The US ambassador to Ireland is hosting a dinner for the first couple this evening, after which they are expected to travel on to London.

Irish airspace

The ash is expected to reach Scotland by tomorrow morning. EU officials said earlier that the ash could also reach Irish airspace by tomorrow and Met Éireann expects it to begin entering Irish airspace overnight.

However, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said this evening that, based on the latest information from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in London, it does not expect any disruptions to flights in Irish airspace over the next 24 hours. The IAA said it was “actively monitoring” the situation in conjunction with VAAC, Met Éireann and the Department of Transport, as well as with airlines, airports and other European air traffic services.

It said it will continue to provide updates on the situation and that if high density ash is recorded in Irish airspace, airlines wishing to travel through it will have to provide a safety case to the IAA.

Earlier, Eurocontrol (the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation) said it expects Dublin to be affected by the ash tomorrow and Wednesday. It doesn’t expect the cloud to move further east than the western coast of Scotland, but does predict it will affect Scandanavia to the north.

The head of Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority Andrew Haines said that safety was the number one priority in this situation, but that new arrangements have been put in place since last year’s disruptions which “mean the aviation sector is better prepared” to reduce any potential disruption.

Last year’s cancellations provoked outrage from a number of airline chiefs who claimed aviation authorities were being unnecessarily overzealous in their reaction to the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

However, a report released last month vindicated the decision to cancel some 100,000 European flights, saying that “the particles of explosive ash that reached Europe in the jet stream were especially sharp and abrasive”. The researchers said that the abrasive substance could cause engines to fail and scratch up windows.

The BBC reports this evening that fears of air travel disruptions due to the ash cloud are having an impact on the shares of European airlines, with Air France KLM shares down around 4.5 per cent while International Consolidated Airlines and Easyjet dropped about 5 per cent.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Video: EU confirms that volcanic ash cloud is heading in Ireland’s direction >

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