Will the volcano in Iceland affect flights?

Will the volcano in Iceland affect flights?

Flights in and out of Iceland’s main airport have been affected by a much-anticipated volcanic eruption.

For six weeks the Icelandic authorities have been monitoring seismic activity close to Keflavik airport, a major North Atlantic aviation hub.

The eruption is around 10 miles southwest of the airport and northeast of the town of Grindavik – whose 4,000 inhabitants were evacuated as a precaution.

According to data from Flightradar24, the last flight to depart from Keflavik airport was an easyJet departure to Manchester. It took off at 1.35am, over five hours late, and arrived safely at Manchester airport at 4am.

Passengers were told by easyJet: “We’re sorry that your flight has been delayed. This is because volcanic activity in Keflavik (KEF) is causing restrictions to the areas in which aircraft are permitted to fly. The safety of you and our crew is our highest priority and we thank you for your patience.”

Arrivals at Keflavik began at around 5am and have been continuing largely normally. The flight situation is being complicated by a series of strike by air-traffic controllers. The staff, who are involved in a dispute over pay, have been walking out intermittently, with another stoppage scheduled for Wednesday morning, 20 December.

The national airline, Icelandair, is telling passengers: “The eruption does have a very minimal affect the operations of Icelandair or Keflavik airport. Our flight schedule remains unchanged.

“No flights have been delayed or canceled due to the eruption. The safety of our passengers and staff is always our number one priority and at the heart of every decision we make. We’re monitoring the situation closely and will inform our passengers of any new developments.”

Some other Tuesday morning departures from Keflavik are showing long delays. The first wave of flights on Play, a new Icelandic airline, are expected to depart four to five hours late.

Play is telling passengers: “Due to a volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland on 18 December 2023, the roads to the town of Grindavik and the Blue Lagoon have been closed while the situation is being evaluated.

“We do not expect any disruptions to our flight schedule but safety is always our top priority and the situation is being monitored closely by the relevant authorities.

“We ask all passengers booked on upcoming flights to keep a close eye on messages from us regarding a possible disruption to our flight schedule.”

Flights from the UK to Iceland appear to be operating normally.

The first departure between the two countries was easyJet’s flight 2259 from Manchester to Keflavik, which departed a few minutes ahead of schedule.

At present there is no sign of an ash cloud of the kind that grounded flights in 2010.

One of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, the Blue Lagoon, has closed as a result. It is close to the eruption zone and had only just reopened for the build-up to Christmas after weeks of closure.

Guests are told: “We have temporarily closed our facilities. All guests with confirmed bookings in the upcoming days will be contacted.

“We will continue to monitor the progress and maintain close communication with the authorities, prioritising safety and well-being.”

Clive Stacey, founder of the leading Iceland specialist travel firm Discover The World, told The Independent: ”There is a potential for the lava to flow to enter Grindavik sometime in the future, although it is expected a wall will be constructed to try and divert the flow away from the town.

“The Blue Lagoon and geothermal power plant are already protected by such a wall. As things stand this is not a ‘tourist eruption’ in its present phase and sightseers have been warned to stay away from the area.

“At Discover The World our thoughts are with the people of Grindavik at this very difficult time. Suffice to say that the town was evacuated long before this latest eruption took place.

“The eruption has also had little impact on flights to and from Keflavik airport, save for a standard closing of airspace for around an hour after the start of the eruption, to assess danger to air travel.”