Flight bans extended into next week as ash cloud lingers

LONDON, April 17, 2010 (AFP) – Millions of people faced worsening travel chaos Saturday as a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, which risks lingering over Europe for up to five more days, forced countries to extend flight bans. France decided to shut the three airports in the Paris area and others in the north of the country until 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on Monday due to the ash cloud that has caused the biggest airspace shutdown since World War II.

Britain, Denmark and Germany officially lengthened bans on most flights in their airspace until 0000 GMT Sunday.

However British Airways said it had decided to cancel all of its Sunday short-haul flights to and from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Scandinavian airline SAS added that all its flights in the region would be grounded until after the weekend with the exception of a handful of domestic flights in northern Norway.

Winds blowing the massive cloud eastward from Iceland to Russia will continue in the same direction for at least two days and could go on until the middle of next week, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on Saturday.

“The ash will continue to be directed towards Britain and Scandinavia,” Teitur Arason, a meteorologist at