Britain eases ash restrictions for flights; British Airways blocks planned cabin crew strike

Britain eases ash restrictions for flights; British Airways blocks planned cabin crew strike

The volcanic ash plume again briefly shut airports and snarled air traffic Monday in London and in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Amsterdam, but a bit of relief may be on the way. Britain’s top aviation authority on Monday eased restrictions on safe flying zones within the ash cloud.

British Airways, meanwhile, obtained a court order to block a 20-day cabin crew strike planned to start Tuesday.

Icelands Eyjafjallajokull volcano is still smoking, but Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority announced the creation of a new flying zone – the “Time Limited Zone” – that changes the level of volcanic ash concentrations considered safe and puts in play airspace that previously would have been off-limits to commercial airlines. Translation? More safe airspace means more flights and fewer delays.

The authority’s chief executive, Andrew Haines, credits the rule change to an international aviation conference May 13 with major airlines, a release said. Flybe, a British domestic carrier, apparently worked with plane engine and aircraft manufacturers to develop protocols that led to the revision of what’s considered a safe concentration of volcanic ash  for planes to fly through.

“The introduction of the Time Limited Zone is based on measurements collected from test flights through the current ash cloud over the past month, as well as on data and evidence compiled and analyzed from previous volcanic ash incidents combined with additional analysis from manufacturers,” the release said.

Flybe will be the first to use the new safety protocols on Tuesday. The airline  reports that if the new rules had been in effect during the past 48 hours, only 21 of the 380 flights the airline canceled would have been affected, according to the Flybe website.

The volcanic plume shut down Heathrow and Gatwick airports between 1 and 7 a.m. Monday (local time in Britain) as well as  Amsterdams Schiphol airport, Dublin Airport in Ireland, and others, media reports said.

– Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Photo: A British Airways jet takes off at London’s Heathrow airport on a test flight last month to gauge the impact of volcanic ash on flight safety. Credit:  Associated Press

By LA Times

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