THUNDER BAY – The situation for air travellers continues to be impacted by the volcanic ash from the Icelandic volcano activity. The fallout has included a delegation from Canada including Prime Minister Harper, and opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.
“Given the dangers of flying through volcanic ash, it is simply not possible. We’ve been advised that the dangers are real and for security purposes obviously it remains impossible for the prime minister to be able to travel there,” according to a spokesperson for the Prime Minister.
In addition, U.S. President Obama has been forced to cancel his trip to Sunday’s state funeral as well. In Great Britain, Prince Charles will also be unable to attend.
The latest news is suggesting that volcanic activity is increasing, which may extend the air shutdown. In Britain, the Met Office reports, “The Eyjafjallajökull volcano is still erupting, and possibly intensifying, with the ash plume rising to 30,000 feet. Evidence of ash dust over the UK is being detected by Met Office observations and there are reports of dust reaching the ground.
The Met Office commissioned NERC research flight flew over the North Sea on Friday afternoon and detected 3 distinct layers of ash, from fine particles at low levels to large particles around 8,000 feet.
All these observations are consistent with our forecast plumes for where the ash cloud would spread and how it would mix through the atmosphere.
The Met Office is working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), and because of the worsening volcanic activity UK airspace has now been closed until 1am Sunday. We continue to look for weather windows that will allow air space restrictions to be lifted.
In Canada, Air Canada advises that as a result of the spread of volcanic ash over northern Europe due to volcanic activity in Iceland, a number of European airports have closed and airspace has been restricted until further notice.
Flights have been cancelled today to and from the following European airports served by Air Canada: London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurichand, Geneva.
Air Canada will continue to provide updates on aircanada.com as further information becomes available.
Customers with flights to or from affected areas are advised to check on the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport by consulting the Air Canada website at aircanada.com, or by calling Air Canada’s automated flight information system at 1-888-422-7533, or by using a web-enhanced cell phone.
In order to facilitate changes to travel plans, Air Canada has revised its ticketing policy for customers booked on flights that are subject to cancellation. Those customers wishing to make alternate travel arrangements can do so without penalty, space permitting, by using Air Canada’s self-service rebooking tool on aircanda.com or their mobile device, or by contacting Air Canada Reservations toll free in Canada and the U.S. at 888-247-2262; TTY: 1-800-361-8071 or Air Canada Reservations worldwide. Due to increased call centre volume, wait times will be longer than usual. To receive a refund for cancelled flights, customers should contact their original point of purchase.
Air Canada is closely monitoring the situation and is doing everything possible to accommodate affected customers to get them on their way safely, and as quickly as possible. Due to heavy loads during the Easter holiday season, despite additional flights and larger aircraft that Air Canada will deploy once it is safe to operate, it is expected that it may take several days for travel to resume.
Air Canada strongly urges customers who are affected to ensure that their personal contact information is available to Air Canada or their travel agent so that they may be contacted with their revised flight itinerary information once operations are able to resume.
Photo courtesy of the Met Office