Europe began allowing limited air traffic to resume, giving hope to millions of travellers stranded around the world when ash from a volcano in Iceland choked the jet age to a halt. Some flights resumed early on Tuesday from Asia to southern Europe.
But further delays were likely because the eruption from the Icelandic volcano that caused days of aviation chaos was said to be strengthening and sending more ash toward Britain. British air traffic controllers kept London’s main airports closed on Tuesday.
In Asia, a Japan Airlines flight from Moscow landed on Tuesday morning at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the first European flight to arrive since Friday night, airport spokesman Toru Motoyoshi said. On Monday, two Alitalia flights departed for Italy.
Singapore Airlines resumed flights early on Tuesday to Barcelona and Rome. But the airline said flights remained cancelled to London, Zurich, Copenhagen and Frankfurt. Singapore’s Changi International Airport said 16 flights on five carriers were cancelled on Tuesday.
At South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, one flight departed for Istanbul, but all other flights to Europe were cancelled on Tuesday, said airport spokeswoman Kate Kang. She said about 250 passengers were stranded at the airport.
European Union transport ministers reached a deal during a crisis videoconference to divide northern European skies into three areas: a “no-fly” zone immediately over the ash cloud; a caution zone “with some contamination” where planes can fly subject to engine checks for damage; and an open-skies zone.
Starting on Tuesday morning, “we should see progressively more planes start to fly,” said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
The German airline Lufthansa said it would bring 50 planeloads of passengers home.
But the optimism was tempered early on Tuesday by a statement from the British National Air Traffic Service, which said “the volcanic eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the U.K.”
The service said Scottish airports should be open from 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Tuesday, and other airspace over England may be reopened in the afternoon, but the open zone for flights would not extend as far south as London, where the country’s main airports are located.
Europe’s aviation industry, facing losses of more than $1 billion, criticised official handling of the disruption that grounded thousands of flights to and from the continent.