Ash-Stranded Travelers Hopeful As Flights Resume

  • British passengers board HMS Albion on April 20 in Santander, Spain. The Royal Navy's ship, carrying service personnel home from Afghanistan, stopped to collect approximately 200 British citizens who were left stranded when their flights were canceled because of volcanic ash.
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    British passengers board HMS Albion on April 20 in Santander, Spain. The Royal Navy's ship, carrying service personnel home from Afghanistan, stopped to collect approximately 200 British citizens who were left stranded when their flights were canceled because of volcanic ash.
    Markel Redondo/Getty Images
  • Smoke and ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano blow across a field April 19 near Nupur, Iceland.
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    Smoke and ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano blow across a field April 19 near Nupur, Iceland.
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  • A farm worker loads a truck with discarded fresh roses at a flower exporter's farm April 19 in Naivasha, Kenya. Kenya's flower exports are wilting under the economic burden of European airspace closures, leaving growers facing huge losses. These flowers had been packed and were ready to export but are now going to compost.
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    A farm worker loads a truck with discarded fresh roses at a flower exporter's farm April 19 in Naivasha, Kenya. Kenya's flower exports are wilting under the economic burden of European airspace closures, leaving growers facing huge losses. These flowers had been packed and were ready to export but are now going to compost.
    Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
  • Lava erupts from the volcano under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 19.  Europe began to emerge from a volcanic cloud Monday, allowing limited air traffic to resume and giving hope to millions of travelers stranded around the world.
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    Lava erupts from the volcano under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 19. Europe began to emerge from a volcanic cloud Monday, allowing limited air traffic to resume and giving hope to millions of travelers stranded around the world.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • A family from Reading, England, embraces after getting bus tickets to France at the bus station in Barcelona, Spain, on April 19. The family had been stranded in Barcelona since April 15.
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    A family from Reading, England, embraces after getting bus tickets to France at the bus station in Barcelona, Spain, on April 19. The family had been stranded in Barcelona since April 15.
    David Ramos/AP
  • Men labor to remove volcanic ash from the roof of a house, in Seljavellir, Iceland,  April 18.
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    Men labor to remove volcanic ash from the roof of a house, in Seljavellir, Iceland, April 18.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • Passengers wait to buy tickets at Termini central train station in Rome on April 18. Stranded airline travelers are turning to alternative transportation in attempts to get home.
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    Passengers wait to buy tickets at Termini central train station in Rome on April 18. Stranded airline travelers are turning to alternative transportation in attempts to get home.
    Andreas Solaro/Getty Image
  • The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and it offered up new mini-eruptions April 17.
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    The Icelandic volcano that has kept much of Europe land-bound is far from finished spitting out its grit, and it offered up new mini-eruptions April 17.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • Farmers team up to rescue cattle from exposure to the toxic volcanic ash at a farm in Nupur, Iceland, April 17.
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    Farmers team up to rescue cattle from exposure to the toxic volcanic ash at a farm in Nupur, Iceland, April 17.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • Ice chunks carried downstream by floodwaters caused by volcanic activity lie on the Markarfljot riverbank April 16, about 75 miles east of Iceland's capital of Reykjavik.
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    Ice chunks carried downstream by floodwaters caused by volcanic activity lie on the Markarfljot riverbank April 16, about 75 miles east of Iceland's capital of Reykjavik.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • Men near Myrdalssandur, Iceland, wrap a house vent in plastic film on April 16 to prevent the entry of airborne volcanic ash. Winds pushed the ash plume south and east across Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia into the heart of Europe.
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    Men near Myrdalssandur, Iceland, wrap a house vent in plastic film on April 16 to prevent the entry of airborne volcanic ash. Winds pushed the ash plume south and east across Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia into the heart of Europe.
    Brynjar Gauti/AP
  • Footprints in volcanic ash in eastern Iceland, left by scientists who collected samples to send to labs.
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    Footprints in volcanic ash in eastern Iceland, left by scientists who collected samples to send to labs.
    Omar Oskarsson/AFP/Getty Images
  • The MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite captured an ash plume from Eyjafjallajokull volcano over the North Atlantic on April 15.
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    The MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite captured an ash plume from Eyjafjallajokull volcano over the North Atlantic on April 15.
    MODIS Rapid Response Team/NASA via Getty Images
  • People wait for information about their flights at the Sofia airport in Bulgaria on April 16. Volcanic smoke and ash affect pilots' visibility and microscopic debris can cause plane engines to shut down.
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    People wait for information about their flights at the Sofia airport in Bulgaria on April 16. Volcanic smoke and ash affect pilots' visibility and microscopic debris can cause plane engines to shut down.
    Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images
  • Smoke and steam hang over the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 14. Volcanic ash drifting across the Atlantic forced the cancellation of flights in Britain and disrupted air traffic across northern Europe, stranding thousands of passengers.
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    Smoke and steam hang over the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 14. Volcanic ash drifting across the Atlantic forced the cancellation of flights in Britain and disrupted air traffic across northern Europe, stranding thousands of passengers.
    Jon Gustafsson/AP
  • An image released by Meteosat on April 15 shows a dark cloud of volcanic ash over Iceland. As the ash spreads across northern Europe, it is forcing the closure of huge swaths of international airspace.
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    An image released by Meteosat on April 15 shows a dark cloud of volcanic ash over Iceland. As the ash spreads across northern Europe, it is forcing the closure of huge swaths of international airspace.
    HO/AFP/Getty Images
  • A man takes a picture of a road that has been washed away by floodwaters from the melting Eyjafjallajokull glacier, caused by the April 14 eruption.
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    A man takes a picture of a road that has been washed away by floodwaters from the melting Eyjafjallajokull glacier, caused by the April 14 eruption.
    Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
  • Iceland's second volcano eruption in less than a month caused part of the glacier to melt, resulting in heavy flooding and forcing up to 800 people to evacuate.
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    Iceland's second volcano eruption in less than a month caused part of the glacier to melt, resulting in heavy flooding and forcing up to 800 people to evacuate.
    HO/AFP/Getty Images
  • Ash from Iceland's latest volcanic eruption has caused the suspension of all London flights, on top of the nearly 300 flights already canceled.
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    Ash from Iceland's latest volcanic eruption has caused the suspension of all London flights, on top of the nearly 300 flights already canceled.
    AFP/Getty Images
  • Smoke billows from an erupting volcano near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 14, near Reykjavik.
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    Smoke billows from an erupting volcano near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on April 14, near Reykjavik.
    Arni Saeberg/AFP/Getty Images
  • Lava lights up the night sky at the Fimmvorduhals volcano on March 27.
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    Lava lights up the night sky at the Fimmvorduhals volcano on March 27.
    Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
  • With lava still gushing, a small Icelandic volcano that initially sent hundreds fleeing from their homes has turned into a boon for the island nation's tourism industry, as visitors flock to catch a glimpse of the eruption.
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    With lava still gushing, a small Icelandic volcano that initially sent hundreds fleeing from their homes has turned into a boon for the island nation's tourism industry, as visitors flock to catch a glimpse of the eruption.
    Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
  • Tourists gather to watch lava spurt out of the Fimmvorduhals volcano, near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.
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    Tourists gather to watch lava spurt out of the Fimmvorduhals volcano, near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.
    Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
  • The March eruption occurred in an area where there is no glacial ice, which minimized the risk of flooding.
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    The March eruption occurred in an area where there is no glacial ice, which minimized the risk of flooding.
    Ragnar Axelsson/AFP/Getty Images
  • The volcanic eruption on March 21 forced more than 600 people to flee their homes in Iceland.
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    The volcanic eruption on March 21 forced more than 600 people to flee their homes in Iceland.
    Fiur Kjartansson/AFP/Getty Images
  • Smoke and ash spew out of a mountain volcano on March 21, 2010, in the region of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland.
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    Smoke and ash spew out of a mountain volcano on March 21, 2010, in the region of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland.
    Fiur Kjartansson/AFP/Getty Images

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The first flight has landed at London's Heathrow Airport — Europe's busiest hub — since airspace across the Continent was closed by ash spewed from a volcano in Iceland.

A flight from Vancouver landed at Heathrow shortly before 10 p.m., the first since flight paths were closed after Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted last Wednesday. British Airways said it hoped about 24 other flights bound from the United States, Africa and Asia would land later Tuesday at Heathrow.

Gridlock Eases Over Europe

Britain: Heathrow International and London Gatwick closed until Wednesday. Some flights resume in Scotland and northern England. Flights in U.K. airspace above 20,000 feet are permitted.

France: Most French airports, including Charles De Gaulle and Orly in Paris, resumed limited flights. Flag carrier Air France planned to resume all regular flights by Wednesday.

Germany: Airspace officially closed for regular flights, though limited number of passenger low-level flights are permitted.

Spain: All airports open.

Italy: Limited number of flights permitted through Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport and in Milan.

Switzerland: Airspace open to regular traffic.

Denmark: Danish airspace open to long-haul flights but airports have not reopened. Airspace under 16,600 feet remains closed until Wednesday.

— Associated Press as of 12 p.m. EDT

Flights also took to the skies in other parts of Europe on Tuesday. Stranded passengers were overjoyed by the resumption of flights, but just as planes started leaving the ground, fresh ash from Iceland threatened to cause more havoc.

Most long-haul flights were set to resume at Paris' Charles de Gaulle, which is Europe's second-largest airport, while airports in many other countries began a "progressive" reopening. Airspace in Germany remained officially closed until 8:00 p.m. local time, but a limited number of flights were allowed in at low altitude.

The Eurocontrol air traffic agency in Brussels, Belgium, said it expects 55 percent to 60 percent of flights over Europe to go ahead Tuesday. By midmorning, 10,000 of Europe's 27,500 daily flights were scheduled to go.

"The situation today is much improved," said Brian Flynn, deputy head of operations at the Brussels-based agency.

But the situation isn't improving fast enough to satisfy the struggling airline industry. The International Air Transport Association estimates that the industry has lost more than $1.5 billion because of the disruption. Aviation experts say the event has been more devastating than the shutdown of U.S. airspace after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They warn that even if things were to improve quickly, one or more airlines could fail.

Although Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to spew smoke and lava, the ash plume is lower than it previously was, posing less threat to highflying aircraft. A Eurocontrol map released Tuesday showed airspace between Iceland and Britain was still a no-fly zone, along with much of the Baltic Sea and surrounding area. Still, planes were being allowed to fly above 20,000 feet in the United Kingdom.

The continued airport closures and reduced flights mean that tens of thousands of passengers will spend at least another night in limbo. Hundreds of cots were set out at New York's Kennedy International Airport, and Air Travelers Association President David Stempler said some U.S. hotels were offering cheaper rates as a courtesy to stranded passengers.

More than 95,000 flights have been canceled in the past week alone, and airlines are facing the days-long task of working to get the enormous backlog of passengers to their destinations.

Switzerland reopened its airspace, and airports in central Europe and Scandinavia have resumed operations. Skies over much of southern Europe remained clear, and Spain volunteered to be an emergency hub for overseas travelers trying to get home.

The Royal Navy HMS Albion, an amphibious assault ship, was dispatched to Spain and France to fetch 800 troops coming home from Afghanistan and passengers who had been stranded by the chaos.

Some flights took off from Asia to southern Europe, and planes ferried people to Europe from Cairo, where at least 17,000 people were stranded.

European airspace began closing down last Thursday as the volcanic ash spread across Britain and Scandinavia. The aviation crisis has reverberated around the world — stranding millions of people and costing the airline industry more than $200 million a day.

Iceland's international airport at Keflavik has remained open throughout the eruption because it is not in the path of the ash plume. Flights have not been interrupted between Iceland and North America.

In Paris, long-haul flights at Charles de Gaulle that had been streaked with red "canceled" signs for five days filled up with white "on time" signs Tuesday, and the first commercial flight out since Thursday left for New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

"We were in the hotel having breakfast, and we heard an aircraft take off. Everybody got up and applauded," said Bob Basso of San Diego, who has been staying in a hotel near Charles de Gaulle since his flight Friday was canceled.

"There's hope," said Basso, 81. He and his son had tickets for a flight to Los Angeles later Tuesday.

Still, an international pilots group warned that ash remains a danger and meteorologists say Iceland's still-erupting volcano isn't yet ready to rest, promising more choked airspace and flight delays to come.

In Denmark, civil aviation authorities postponed a test flight Tuesday with a propeller-driven ATR 72 to gauge ash concentration, for safety reasons. There is no consensus regarding how much ash is too dangerous, and even quantities of ash too small to be seen by satellite can be dangerous for aircraft, scientists fear.

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