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Europe cancels 500 flights

Thousands of passengers were forced to abandon plans after ash from an Icelandic volcano caused the cancellation of 500 flights on Tuesday, but officials said Europe's airways would be less disrupted than a year ago.

world Updated: May 25, 2011 00:35 IST

Thousands of passengers were forced to abandon plans after ash from an Icelandic volcano caused the cancellation of 500 flights on Tuesday, but officials said Europe's airways would be less disrupted than a year ago.

As the eruption of Iceland's most active volcano began to run out of steam, a trail of ash from the plume which has been rising from Grimsvotn since Saturday drifted south into Scotland and parts of northern England, disrupting flights.

Among travellers affected were US President Barack Obama, who left Ireland for Britain late on Monday ahead of schedule.

"At the moment we think Glasgow and Edinburgh will be affected throughout this afternoon but should be returning to normal tomorrow morning," British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told BBC TV.

European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said around 500 flights had been cancelled on Tuesday.

There were no immediate reports of threats to largest airports such as London Heathrow, but controllers said Denmark, Norway and Sweden could see some disruption by Wednesday.

Over 10 million people were affected when a six-day shutdown of most European airspace halted over 100,000 flights in April last year. Airlines pegged their revenue losses at $1.7 billion.

Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based agency responsible for some of the world's busiest air corridors, said the impact on flights was expected to be far lower this time due to new procedures. Officials say the new rules which allow airlines to fly in ash under certain conditions and better coordination by civil aviation bodies mean mass chaos will be avoided.