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Flight disruptions to continue on Tuesday despite lift on restrictions

9.30pm update: Airspace over Britain will progressively reopen tomorrow starting at 7am.

April 19, 2010 5:01 by

Flights between the Middle East and most European destinations remain suspended following the volcanic eruption in Iceland, although some routes were reopened on Monday.

It emerged today that airspace over Britain will progressively reopen tomorrow starting at 7am, according to a set of guidelines agreed by EU transport ministers during a video conference on Monday.

However, as at 9pm Etihad and Emirates said flights to the UK and most other European destinations are cancelled and would not start operating until Wednesday at the earliest.

“Currently Emirates is not accepting any passengers for travel to European destinations (excluding Moscow, Athens, Larnaca, Malta, Istanbul, Nice and Rome) until the 21st April,” the Dubai airline said in a statement posted on its website.

Even passengers on Emirates flights not grounded by the ash cloud over Europe will be denied boarding: “Passengers with flights who are departing from unaffected countries today but scheduled to travel via Dubai into the UK and Europe tomorrow will not currently be accepted for boarding from their departure country,” the airline said.

Etihad Airways said it had resumed its services between Abu Dhabi and Milan, but as at 5pm Monday said that “flight cancellations remain in place to [other] destinations in Europe and the UK until further notice”. In an earlier statement, the airline said that it did not expect to recommence these services before midnight on Tuesday.

On the fifth day of air travel disruption, the head of the world’s airline industry body IATA criticized European governments’ response to the closure of airspace over a number of European countries, telling the BBC, “This is a European embarrassment and… a European mess.”

The BBC said that the following airports remain closed as at Monday afternoon: Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Schipol, Amsterdam. Rome and Madrid airports are currently offering limited service.

The disruption in air travel has cost Emirates Airline more than $50 million thus far, according to local media reports. The airline said that more than 73,000 of their passengers had been affected by the cancellations. Hotel accommodations and meals for its passengers in transit is costing Emirates a reported $1 million per day.

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