Mount Etna eruption causes travel chaos

Sicilian volcano Mount Etna has erupted causing chaos for airlines with flights routed via the island.

The massive plume of ash and smoke caused by the eruption has already caused easyJet to cancel flights from several UK cities including Edinburgh, as the Italian island’s main airport, Catania, was forced to close. The eruption began overnight Sunday to Monday, and although the lava flow subsided before dawn, ash was still billowing from one of the craters.

No flights will be allowed in until at least 6 PM UK time, the airport said, in a message released earlier today on X (Twitter).

Aviation data provider Cirium said that the airport was due to handle 235 flights on Monday. Other airlines affected include British Airways, Ryanair and KLM, with flights cancelled, delayed or diverted to other airports on the island.

This latest setback at Sicily’s main airport comes just weeks after a fire caused lengthy disruption and forced the facility to close temporarily, impacting on the popular holiday island’s busiest time of the year.

Mount Etna last saw a major eruption in 1992.

British Airways announces plans to cut 10,000 more flights to and from Heathrow

British Airways has announced a further round of cancellations, eliminating 10,000 flights to and from Heathrow until the end of March 2023, The Guardian has reported.

Heathrow’s directive comes as it struggles to find the staff amid post-Covid recovery to meet returning demand from business travellers and tourists, leading to chaos and long queues over Easter, spring half-term and into early summer.

The carrier, owned by International Airlines Group, has decided to reduce its short-haul schedule by eight percent after the London airport extended the summer’s 100,000 daily cap on passenger numbers by six more weeks until the end of October and asked airlines to sell fewer flights.

British Airways said that it will increase cancellations, continuing a trend that began in May as airlines and airports struggled with staff shortages. The airline has already cut thousands of flights over the summer to address the staffing problems faced by airports and the airline itself. It also suspended ticket sales on short-haul flights from Heathrow earlier this month in light of Heathrow’s capacity cap.

British Airways said that more than 600 return flights to and from Heathrow would be cancelled to October 29, while the winter schedule, which runs until the end of March, would be cut by eight percent. The impact is expected to be ‘minimal’ as alternative same-day flights available on most of the routes affected, but some cancellations would be unavoidable.

‘While the vast majority of our customers will travel as planned and we’re protecting key holiday destinations over half-term, we will need to make some further cancellations up to the end of October,’ a spokesperson for BA said.

‘In addition, we’re giving customers travelling with us this winter notice of some adjustments to our schedule, which will include consolidating some of our short-haul flights to destinations with multiple services. We’ll be offering customers affected by any of these changes an alternative flight with British Airways or another airline or the option of a refund.’

The government has allowed airlines to cut their capacity this year via the introduction of a ‘slot amnesty’, announced last month. The facility allows airlines to reduce operations without forfeiting the right to valuable landing slots at Heathrow and other busy airports, which normally have a ‘use it or lose it’ rule, the report noted.