With volcanic plumes virtually grounding air traffic over the European sky, Air India on Saturday cancelled its flights to Europe and North America till Monday but Jet Airways announced plans to resume operations to New York and Toronto by making a diversion over Greece.
Hundreds of air travellers, both Indian and foreign, faced inconvenience at Delhi and Mumbai where airline or airport officials could not confirm when they would be able to fly. Parking bays at these airports also got congested as several planes bound for Europe remained stationed there.
A Jet spokesperson said the private carrier would operate Newark-Mumbai-Newark and Toronto-Delhi-Toronto sectors from Saturday night by making a technical halt at Athens as an alternate temporary transit point through Europe.
"We have taken special permission from Directorate General of Civil Aviation" for this stopover, she said. However, Jet cancelled its flights bound for London and its European hub at Brussels scheduled for Sunday.
Air India too cancelled flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Amritsar to London, Frankfurt, Chicago, New York, Washington, Toronto and Newark and vice versa till Monday.
"As the European Airspace continues to remain closed following the volcanic eruption in Iceland, Air India has suspended all westbound flights to Europe, USA and Canada on April 19," an AI spokesperson said, adding that the same flights scheduled for Sunday have also been cancelled.
Announcing closure of UK airspace till 0100 GMT tomorrow (0630 IST), British air navigation services NATS said "the restrictions currently in place across UK controlled airspace will remain in place until at least 0100 (UK time) tomorrow, Sunday. .... It is most unlikely that many flights will operate today and anyone hoping to travel should contact their airline before travelling to the airport."
EUROCONTROL, which provides navigation services across Europe, said "no landings and take-offs are possible for civilian aircraft across most of North and Central Europe."
Though in some areas upper airspace was available, "it is difficult to access this airspace as in most cases the surrounding area is not available for flights".
It expected about 6,000 flights to operate today as against 22,000 on a normal Saturday. On Friday, 10,400 flights operated as against a normal traffic of 28,000.
Closure of airports have left hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports. Passengers claim that airlines were asking them to cancel their ticket and re-book, saying that they do not know when the flights would operate.