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Europe

Test flights begin, but travel remains seriously disrupted by Icelandic volcanic ash

media The empty departure lounge at Marseille airport Photo: Reuters

Air France will follow the lead of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on Sunday and conduct a test flight to determine the severity of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud on air traffic. An Air France flight is set to take off about 12:00 GMT following a similar test by the Dutch national carrier which safely flew from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf early on Sunday morning.

Although Toulouse, Montpellier and Biarritz airports remain closed, Air France is looking to test the presence of the volcanic ash in the southwest of the country, the French aviation authority DGAC said in a statement.

This follows similar tests by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, who flew a Boeing 737 with 20 crew on board from Schiphol airport at 04:30 GMT to Dusseldorf in Germany. A similar test flight had been carried out on Saturday evening within Dutch airspace with no observed irregularities.

Elsewhere in Europe some small corridors of airspace were beginning to reopen. The Polish aviation authority said they had opened their airspace for transit on Sunday morning. While a private jet from the US landed in the northern Swedish town of Kiruna after some areas across Norway and Sweden were reopened.

However air travel in many countries remains in chaos. Britain has extended its flight ban until at least 0000 GMT on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

“The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland is currently spread across the UK,” the National Air Traffic Services said in a statement.

Barcelona and at least 10 other airports in northern Spain were closed on Sunday until at least 14:00 GMT, as the volcanic ash plumes shifted to the south.

Austria extended their airspace closure until at least 00:00 GMT on Monday, while the Czech Republic announced that their flight ban would stay in place until at least 10:00 GMT.

The effects of the freak volcanic ash cloud continued to resound beyond European airspace. Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region cancelled many European flights for the third day in a row on Sunday.

Australian carrier Qantas grounded all flights and said they were not optimistic about resuming service until Tuesday afternoon, advising passengers to wait it out.

In Singapore, 34 flights were cancelled on Sunday, in South Korea another 28 services were axed, while in Hong Kong around 40 flights were affected.

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