Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Volcanic ash heads for Heathrow, threatening to snarl travel

Airlines and air traffic controllers across Europe watched and waited nervously Tuesday as a cloud of volcanic ash spread east and south from Iceland, threatening to disrupt flights on a wide scale.

The ash cloud began to reach London's Heathrow airport -- the world's busiest international air travel hub -- around lunchtime, a computer model map indicated.

Concentration of ash at Heathrow remained low and had not led to widespread cancellations, but about 500 flights in British airspace will be canceled Tuesday, said Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic control organization. That is more than double the expected number of flight cancellations announced earlier in the day.

A volcanic ash cloud a year ago forced the cancellation of thousands of flights per day at the peak of the problem. (read more)