LATEST: Emirates, Etihad and Oman Air disruptions

Middle East airlines deal with aftermath of volcanic eruption.
Etihad, Oman air, NEWS, Aviation


Emirates Airline has cancelled its early morning flights to London Heathrow and Gatwick as the impact of the Icelandic ash cloud continues to cause misery for tens of thousands of passengers in the Gulf region.

To Saturday, more than 40,000 Emirates passengers have been impacted by the closure of airspace in the UK and most of Europe and thousands are to be stranded with Sunday's UK schedule wiped out and the first cancellations announced for Monday.

Etihad said its UK and European flights were grounded "until further notice" while Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Gulf Air also suspended UK and European services on Sunday.

Britain has extended a ban on most flights in its airspace until at least 6pm (9pm UAE time) on Sunday, air authorities said.

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) said only about 5,000 flights took place on Saturday in European airspace. On a normal Saturday, it would expect 22,000, it said in a statement.

"Emirates is working on a contingency plan to ensure that we get flights and passengers moving as quickly as possible once airspace reopens. However, like every carrier, we cannot activate contingency plans until we receive clearance from European Air Traffic Control authorities. Until this happens, we cannot give firm timescales," the spokesperson added.

All flights to London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow on Sunday have been grounded, the airline said.

Destinations in France and Germany and Switzerland have also been hit with services to Paris, Dusseldorf and Hamburg and Zurich cancelled on Sunday.

In a statement on Saturday, Emirates said it was currently only accepting passengers for flights to Moscow, Athens, Larnaca, Malta and Istanbul.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways also said its services to the UK, Ireland and some European destinations had been cancelled "until further notice" while other Gulf-based airlines have also been impacted by the continuing ash cloud saga.

"Due to the spreading plume of volcanic ash and subsequent closure of airports in the UK and European region, Etihad Airways has cancelled all flights to the UK, Ireland, mainland Europe and Russian Federation until further notice," Etihad said on its website.

Qatar Airways said all its flights from Doha to Heathrow, Gatwick, Munich, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Berlin, Zurich, Stockholm, Vienna and Copenhagen had been cancelled on Sunday.

All Gulf Air flights to and from London Heathrow, Paris CDG and Frankfurt airports have also been cancelled until further notice.

The International Air Transport Association’s initial and conservative estimate of the financial impact on airlines is in excess of $200 million per day in lost revenues.

In addition to lost revenues, airlines will incur added costs for re-routing of aircraft, care for stranded passengers and stranded aircraft at various ports, IATA said in a statement.

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