European air traffic could be normal by Thursday

Air travel over Europe could return to normal by Thursday as ash from an Icelandic volcano dissipates, an aviation officials says.
A passenger at Hamburg airport looks at the information board that shows most of the flights cancelled due to ash in the atmosphere stemming from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano on Wednesday. (Philipp Guelland, dapd/Associated Press)

Air travel over Europe could return to normal by Thursday as ash from an Icelandic volcano dissipates, an aviation officials says.

Eruption up close

See documentary filmmaker Jon Gustafsson's close-up footage of the volcano erupting.

Brian Flynn, the head of network operations for Eurocontrol, said about 700 flights are expected to be cancelled on Wednesday due to airborne ash from the Grimsvotn volcano.

However, reduced activity from the volcano could mean a quick return to normal air traffic, he said.

"There were very few eruptions by the volcano over the last six to 12 hours so the volcano is in a reasonably calm state at the moment," said Flynn. "Assuming that continues, we would expect that the European aviation would be able to return to almost a normal situation within the next 24 hours."

All air traffic in and out of Berlin's airports was shut down on Wednesday morning as ash from an Icelandic volcano continued to affect travel in Europe.

Germany's Meteorological Service said traffic in and out of the Berlin's Tegel or Schoenefeld airports was ordered closed at 11 a.m. local time, or 5 a.m. ET.

The ash from the Grimsvotn volcano had earlier forced the closure of airports in Bremen, Hamburg and Luebeck. However, German air control subsequently gave permission for Bremen and Hamburg's airports to reopen.

Eurocontrol also said Wednesday that Polish airspace may affected by light ash, and was urging travellers to check with their airlines for flight status.

Eurocontrol said that approximately 500 flights were cancelled Tuesday from the approximately 29,000 that would have been expected today across Europe.

British airspace, which had been affected by the ash on Tuesday, was mostly clear on Wednesday.

The latest volcanic eruption in Iceland has so far not packed the same punch as last year's. In April 2010, another volcanic eruption grounded planes across northern Europe for five days, stranding some 10 million travellers. Thousands of flights were grounded and airlines lost millions of dollars after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano blew.

The Grimsvotn volcano began erupting on Saturday, sending clouds of ash high into the air. The amount of ash spewing from the volcano tapered off dramatically on Tuesday, however, said Elin Jonasdottir, a forecaster at Iceland's meteorological office. She added that because the plume has decreased in height — it's now at about 5,000 metres — the ash won't travel far and will most likely fall to the ground near its source.

With files from The Associated Press