252 flights grounded by ash cloud: Eurocontrol

BRUSSELS, May 24, 2011 (AFP) - European air traffic controllers said Tuesday morning that 252 flights had been cancelled as a volcanic ash cloud covered Scotland and Northern Ireland.

AFP - An image released by the Nasa Earth Observatory on May 24, 2011 shows the ash column billowing from the Grimsvoetn volcano.

"Most airlines have cancelled flights today -- 252 flights," said Brian Flynn, head of operations at the Brussels-based Eurocontrol via Twitter. "Parts of ashcloud to cover Scotland and Northern Ireland today."

The eruption of the Grimsvoetn volcano in Iceland forced US President Barack Obama the previous day to revise travel plans for a state visit to Britain and threatens to affect Barcelona's preparations for Saturday's Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London.

Flynn warned that the ash cloud "will continue possibly southwards to France and Spain but hard to say now because (weather) forecasts are not precise for the end of the week."

He said that by the end of the day, the cloud "will cover southern parts of Scandinavia, Denmark and northern parts of Germany possibly." This raised the prospect of major travel disruption across Europe due to Icelandic volcanic eruption for the second time in little over a year.

Last year, the plume landed first in Scotland before spreading quickly across Britain and Ireland, then drifting across most of Europe.

The biggest shutdown of airspace in the post-war era left many airlines deeply unhappy over halting flights.

A fresh confrontation loomed Tuesday between aviation authorities and carriers -- who face substantial costs and lost revenue associated with cancellation and passenger rights.

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