Flights cancelled over possibility of volcanic ash

Volcanic ash from a massive plume drifting over Europe may be headed to Newfoundland and that has caused many flights out of St. John’s to be cancelled for this morning.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Volcanic ash from a massive plume drifting over Europe may be headed to Newfoundland and that has caused many flights out of St. John’s to be cancelled for this morning.

An erupting volcano in Iceland has been pumping a massive cloud of ash into the sky for days, forcing the closure of airspace over much of Europe.

Transport Canada and Nav Canada have advised St. John’s International Airport that there’s a chance the ash spewing from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano will reach St. John’s airspace Monday morning, said a spokeswoman for the airport.

“We do have a number of flights that have been cancelled Monday morning for precautionary reasons,” said Marie Manning, the airport’s director of marketing and community relations.

“What we understand is about a 30 per cent chance that the volcanic ash will hit us.”

Transport Canada would make the decision to shut down the airspace, if necessary, and they would advise Nav Canada, who would then issue a “notice to airmen,” advising pilots of the closure, said Nav Canada spokeswoman Michelle Bishop.

Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines have cancelled flights today out of St. John’s up to 9 a.m.

Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said that this morning’s flights to and from Gander and Deer Lake could also experience delays or possible cancellations as a result of the ash cloud.

“The volcanic ash is spreading westward and we are expecting it to affect our flight operations to and from three Canadian airports in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. Canadian travellers stranded abroad by the volcanic ash resigned themselves to what will likely be several more days of waiting.

As the volcanic ash spread across Europe, Air Canada cancelled flights to and from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Rome and Tel Aviv. The European Union said air traffic could return to 50 per cent of its normal level today, but only if forecasts confirmed that skies over half the continent were clearing of volcanic ash.

That would still leave airlines with a massive travel backlog that would take time to clear.

Chandra Ewing, a Canadian unable to fly home from Frankfurt, said Sunday that she counts herself lucky because she was able to take a train south to Diessen to go stay with a friend.

“Everyone seems pretty hopeless,” Ewing said of people at the airport.

“People are out of money, people are stranded.”

One Toronto couple, Melanie and Roger Dulos, had planned to attend the wedding of a close friend in London on Saturday, but like scores of other guests, simply couldn’t get there.

“Only approximately 40 out of 110 guests were able to attend,” Dulos said Sunday from Nice, France.

“The groom’s parents also missed the wedding because they were stranded in Norway.”

The couple was supposed to fly home from London Sunday but that wasn’t happening either.

Dulos, 33, said she had been unable to reach British Airways to arrange her return flight, but her travel agent said the earliest she could likely leave is Saturday.

“We have been very fortunate in that we are in a beautiful city, with warm weather and have been able to extend the stay at the apartment we rented for no additional cost as of yet,” Dulos said.

“We have decided to make the best of it, enjoy Nice, practice our French and visit a few extra museums and nearby cities we were unable to get to last week.”

Some travellers, like a trio of businessmen from Peterborough, Ont., managed to get home from India by flying east instead of west.

They flew to Bangkok and Tokyo, before heading to Toronto, where they arrived Saturday afternoon.

“We basically went the other way around the world,” said Gord Buchholz of Quickmill.

Andrea Gillis, 24, also from Toronto, and a friend were stranded in Dublin Sunday, instead of catching a flight from London back home.

“As of now we can’t fly out until Friday from Dublin,” Gillis said.

“We have a place to stay while we’re here, so we’ve been making the most of our ’extended vacation,’ but I feel like if this is still going on by the end of the week, the novelty could wear off.”