Airport chaos as ash cloud forces flight cancellations

HUNDREDS of passengers faced flight cancellations from Edinburgh airport today as an Icelandic ash cloud closed in on Britain.

Most airlines cancelled services in and out of the Capital and airport bosses said the slower-than-expected movement of the cloud meant the disruption could last longer.

Some 400 people spent last night camping out at the airport after their flights yesterday were cancelled because of high winds.

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An airport spokesman said: "It has been a double whammy with yesterday's severe weather and now the ash cloud."

The airport said it remained open but advised passengers to contact their airlines directly before travelling there.

It is up to individual airlines to decide whether to fly. This morning, only BMI flights to London and Jet 2 and Onur Air flights to destinations including Alicante were taking off from Edinburgh.

Some passengers with other airlines were being bussed to Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports in the hope of catching flights from there.

For David Malcolm, 67, and his wife Helen, 66, from Musselburgh, hoping to fly to Majorca, today's disruption was the second time they had been affected by Icelandic volcanoes. He said: "We were due to go to Majorca on a family holiday last year but the ash cloud stopped us and we never got there. We are trying to get there again today, but it looks like it's going for a long day."

Thorben Bom, one of a group of eight Danes on a golfing holiday to Scotland, was also stranded. "We were meant to be getting a flight to Denmark at 7.20am," he said. "We don't know anything and can't get any answer. We have no idea when we are going to get home to Denmark."

A woman, also travelling to Denmark, was taken ill at the airport and had to be treated by paramedics.

The British Red Cross was at the airport overnight, handing out blankets.

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An airport spokesman said the ash cloud had not been moving as quickly as anticipated. It was originally expected to be over Scotland by 6am today but revised forecasts suggested noon.

"Clearly the ash cloud is going to cause significant delays and disruption. It's a fluid situation and we'll be updating passengers as much as we can."

Today's cancellations come just over a year after another volcanic eruption in Iceland forced the closure of UK airspace.

And UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said Britons "have got to learn" to live with chaos caused by volcanic activity in Iceland.

He said: "My understanding is that we have gone through an unusually quiet period for volcanic eruptions in Iceland over the last 20-odd years and we are moving into a period when there is likely to be significantly more volcanic activity."

But he insisted there were now "much more robust systems" to "minimise the disruptive effect".