Update: U.K. Flight Restrictions Extended Again Due to Ash; Cruises Impacted

April 17, 2010
Update, 5 a.m. EDT: As the ash cloud continues to move over the U.K., NATS has now advised that restrictions in U.K. controlled airspace will remain in place until at least 8 p.m. EDT Saturday (1 a.m. BST Sunday). There is a possibility that some airspace will be available within Scotland and Northern Ireland. The next update will come at approximately 10 a.m. EDT (3 p.m. BST).

(April 16, 4:45 p.m. EDT) -- Although a cloud of ash continues to move through Europe due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland, air restrictions have been lifted in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the area over the North Sea that includes the Shetlands and Orkney Isles. But, meanwhile, flights are still grounded in England and Wales, and restrictions there will remain in place until at least 8 a.m. EDT (1 p.m. BST) Saturday -- six hours later than was announced Friday morning.

The latest report from Britain's air traffic control service, NATS, was posted at 3:45 EDT (8:45 BST) and states that airports to the north (including those in Manchester, Liverpool and other cities) may be available for arrivals and departures. However, because the situation changes constantly, passengers are advised to check with their airlines before assuming their flights will proceed as scheduled.

The situation is reviewed every six hours; the next update will be issued at 4 a.m. EDT (9 a.m. BST).

Sky News reported Friday that five flights arrived in Glasgow and Prestwick Friday morning, and one Air Canada flight has departed.

But, for cruise passengers, the outlook for the weekend is bleak as at least another 24 hours of disruption is likely. Airports in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands are closed today as the ash cloud drifts slowly south and east. In mainland Europe Friday, only 11,000 out of 28,000 scheduled flights were scheduled to operate. Some 24 airports in northern France are closed, while in Germany, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf are closed -- and let's not forget that the main European river cruise season is about to begin, and will probably also be affected by the crisis.

The latest info from the cruise lines.

So what are the options? Eurostar services between London and Paris and Brussels are full; more than 10,000 extra bookings were made yesterday and passengers are being advised only to turn up at the station if they have a confirmed booking. There are some places available on ferries, options which may be taken up by British passengers who choose to drive to their departure port.

Passengers who have booked a fly-cruise and are affected should have heard from their travel agent or cruise line by now about re-booking or joining the cruise at a later stage and if those who booked cruise-only should have been contacted by their airline.

We'll update the news from the cruise lines throughout the day and, of course, the latest from NATS as it's announced, so stay tuned.

--By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor, and Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor

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