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Economic fears as volcanic ash returns to UK airspace

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by Kay Mitchell
”Economic

Sir Richard Branson is calling for urgent intervention to avoid damage to the UK economy after some airports were closed again at the weekend, due to the return of the volcanic ash cloud.

Airports across the country closed from 1:00pm yesterday after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) extended its no-fly zone due to the ash cloud being blown above the UK.

According to some experts, the massive cloud of ash is a threat to safety since it has the ability to damage jet engines as the ash is sucked into the intakes and compacted by the operation of the machines and thereby causing a failure.

As a result, thousands of flights have been cancelled over the last few weeks for safety reasons and it is set to have a devastating affect on the airline industry and the wider economy.

Sir Richard, Virgin Atlantic president, said: “All the test flights by airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers have shown no evidence that airlines could not continue to fly completely safely.”

He continued: “It is obviously dangerous to fly through the mouth of a volcano. However, the volcano is hundreds of miles away from the UK.”

In related news, figures recently revealed that activity in the UK’s closely-watched service sector slowed in April, hit by the ash cloud which disrupted businesses.

The UK’s service sector accounts for almost three quarters of GDP and covers businesses offering hospitality such as hotels, restaurants and catering.

Meanwhile, returning to today’s travel chaos, passengers are being urged to check with their airlines before travelling.

Restrictions are expected in parts of the UK until Tuesday.

Speaking on GMTV this morning, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, said: “We are gathering more evidence all the time. The aircraft manufacturers are looking at that evidence.

“They are looking at what inspection regimes they can put in place that would allow safe flying through a somewhat higher threshold of ash.

“If we can do that the likelihood of volcanic ash disrupting flights will obviously diminish.”

The news comes as British Airways (BA) cabin crew are set to embark on strike action tomorrow.

However, in a bid to stop the latest strikes, BA is seeking a High Court injunction to prove strike is illegal, arguing that the Unite union did not tell members the result of the strike ballot as soon as possible, as based on 1992 legislation.

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News posted: May 17, 2010

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