Planes still grounded amid warnings of more ash

JUST four passengers made it out of Edinburgh Airport early today as planes remained grounded with another cloud of volcanic ash on the way.

Despite hopes being raised that the situation would return to normal today, just one flight to Stornoway – with only four travellers onboard – took off at 7.16am. Only a small handful of flights were expected to arrive and depart, with most of the major airlines continuing to cancel services.

Television crews outnumbered passengers at the airport, where just a handful of people had turned up in hope rather than expectation.

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Following warnings that another cloud of ash was on its way, British Airways, EasyJet and Irish carrier Aer Lingus all cancelled their flights for the day. The only flights in and out of the airport were expected to be those going between the Capital and the Scottish islands, with the vast majority of other services cancelled, including a flight from Dublin which had been expected to arrive at 7.50am.

In a statement this morning, air traffic controllers NATS said the eruption in Iceland had strengthened and a new ash cloud was spreading south and east towards the UK.

It described the situation as "dynamic and rapidly changing" and said it would issue a further update later in the day.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport owner BAA said the situation remained "very fluid," with indications that airports may have to close again later in the day. He said: "NATS are coming out with another advisory at 9am, but we suspect Glasgow and Irish airspace will be closed.

"There's been another eruption, so there is another plume of ash. It's a very dynamic situation and our job is to make the facilities available so that if airlines want to take off they can."

At the airport, most flights on the boards this morning were marked "cancelled" or "check with airline".

Passenger Bill Ronald, 41, a customer service agent for FlyBe, was among the first four passengers on the 7.15am Stornoway flight – the first out of Edinburgh since Wednesday evening.

He had travelled up by coach from Northumberland to the airport. He said: "I'm a nervous flyer at the best of times so all this doesn't help.

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"Luckily, it's only a 45 minute flight and you only go to 15,000 feet so even if there was some ash cloud we'd be below it anyway."

But Michael and Louise Fullerton weren't so lucky. They arrived at the airport at around 6am after being told their flight to Belfast may be on, only to discover they would have to wait until 9pm tonight for the first one.

Mr Fullerton said: "We just got here and it said on the board it was cancelled."

Meanwhile train operator East Coast is to run extra services throughout this week. Between today and Friday, the company will run additional trains between Edinburgh and London King's Cross. It will also extend some services that normally end in Newcastle to continue to Edinburgh.

And a helpline for passengers was launched today on 0800 027 0504.