While thousands of passengers wait stranded all over the world, officials in Europe and airline authorities are working toward regulating flight schedules that have been affected by Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud. Eurocontrol, the air traffic agency in Brussels said that less than a third of scheduled flights would take off today. Between just 8-9,000 flights out of 28,000 will depart or have already. Now, on the fifth day of the natural disaster, countries are doing what they can to work around the complications and return travelers to their destinations.
While most of southern Europe and a few smaller airports in northern Europe remain open, airports in Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands – four of the largest hubs in the continent – still have closed airspace.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent both HMS Ark Royal and the HMS Ocean to cross the English Channel, and a third ship will go to Spain to rescue soldiers who have just finished their tours of duty in Afghanistan. The ships are expected to cross the Channel today.
Britain and Spain are in talks about allowing stranded British travelers to fly into Spain, and arrive home by either bus or boat. Due to a KLM flight in 1989 when a Boeing temporarily lost its four engines in midst of a volcanic ash cloud, airlines are being extra cautious in testing and operating flights.
Some carriers from Germany and France tested planes this weekend without passengers at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. So far, testing has been successful, and no microscopic ash particles have damaged the engines.
Official from Britain, Germany, France, Spain and the rest of the European Union are meeting today to establish safe corridors of flight paths based on the behavior of the cloud. Due to varying winds, however, the conditions could change quickly.
Travelers in airports across the world are reportedly sleeping on floors, getting only one meal voucher a day, and voicing their anguish via signs and protests, according to USA Today.