Fourteen thousand flights, about half of all Europe's air traffic were back in the air today, as harried air passengers braced for further delays after warnings that a "new ash cloud" was heading towards Britain.
However, more ash from Iceland's erupting volcano threatened to stall plans to reopen UK airspace, including at
London's Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports.
However, Britain's Air traffic control company Nats said the "situation was worsening" in some areas after the
eruption of the Icelandic volcano strengthened.
"The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the UK,"
Nats said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Eurocontrol, the intergovernmental body that manages European air travel said 14,000 flights were
expected to operate in European airspace today, which constitute half of scheduled air traffic.
Two-thirds of scheduled flights were cancelled yesterday, and nearly 80 per cent did not fly over the
Flights were restricted to those above 20,000 feet, Eurocontrol said. Lower air space is closed or severely
restricted across Europe, it added.
Planes were back in the air in France, Germany and Italy. Around 75 per cent of scheduled flights were expected
from France's two main airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, French Minister for Ecology Jean-Louis Borloo told French
radio network RTL.
European Union transport ministers who met on a video link yesterday reached a deal to resume some flight
operations, dividing northern European skies into three zones -- a 'no-fly' zone, a caution zone and a open zone.
The go-ahead for flights came as airlines pointed to successful test flights through closed airspace as a reason
for lifting restrictions.
Earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown deployed two Royal Navy ships to help bring Britons home, with a third
vessel also possibly being deployed.
Some European airlines meanwhile resumed operations bringing relief to thousands of passengers.
The Nats said test flights in recent days by airlines including KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways suggested planes
can fly safely despite the ash. None of the flights reported problems or damage.
Eurocontrol, the air traffic agency in Brussels, said less than one-third of flights in Europe took off yesterday,
between 8,000 and 9,000 of the continent's 28,000 scheduled flights. Officials said more are expected to operate today.