Ash is Back -- Will it Impact Cruise Travel Again?

May 4, 2010

Update, 7:30 a.m. EDT: According to the latest update from NATS, airspace is expected to open at 1 p.m. BST, with the exception of a small area in the northwest corner of U.K. airspace.

(5:30 a.m. EDT) -- The volcanic ash cloud, which caused global travel chaos last month is back, with flying restrictions currently in place across parts of western Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Britain's air traffic control body, NATS, has said that airspace has been closed from 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. EDT) and will remain closed until at least 1 p.m. BST (8 a.m. EDT) today.

On the positive side, flights are operating as usual across the rest of the U.K. and flights in Northern Ireland should resume this afternoon as the cloud moves away. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has also cleared Irish airports to reopen at 1 p.m.

Passengers due to travel from impacted airports are advised to contact their airline.

Last month, flights over much of Europe were banned for six days due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Cruise ship schedules were also disrupted with many passengers unable to get to their embarkation port.

However, a number of cruise ships came to the rescue of ash-stranded travellers. Celebrity Cruises' brand new Celebrity Eclipse embarked on a last-minute rescue mission to Bilbao, Spain, ahead of its launch celebrations. The cruise line worked with U.K. tour operators to collect 2,000 holidaymakers and bring them home to Southampton.

Thomson Cruises' Thomson Dream and Island Escape also played a part in repatriating customers. Instead of disembarking passengers in the Canary Islands, Island Escape sailed to Falmouth, Cornwall, to drop guests off and pick up embarking passengers.

The next update from NATS will come at noon, so we will keep you posted.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor