Flights at Frankfurt and other German airports were halted indefinitely on Friday as a high-altitude cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland spread further over Europe.
No flights were landing or departing from the Frankfurt airport – the biggest in Germany and the hub for Lufthansa’s worldwide operations – from 8 am, an airport spokesman said.
The airport was not formally closed, however, and operations could quickly resume once meteorological conditions improve, he added.
Elsewhere in Germany, flights were grounded at Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, and other smaller airports.
The ash floating thousands of kilometres from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has also forced the unprecedented closure of airports across Europe.
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) said in a statement it expected around 11,000 flights on Friday in European airspace, down from the normal 28,000.
Besides the airports closed in Germany, airspace is not open to civilian aircraft travel in Ireland, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, the north of France including all Paris airports, and parts of Poland including Warsaw airport, Eurocontrol said.
It remains unclear when conditions will improve enough to resume air traffic in the region.
Radar images from the German Weather Service show the ash cloud moving south, spokesperson for Germany’s DFS air traffic authority Kristine Kelek told news agency DPA. But there is currently no news on whether southern airports including Munich may also have to shut down, she said.
Experts believe that the ash could cause aircraft engine failure, adhering to moving parts and causing them to seize up.
Meanwhile the volcano in southern Iceland continues to belch ash and smoke into the atmosphere, forcing hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate, the country’s foreign minister said late on Thursday.
Like all other airlines, Lufthansa must comply with directives issued by ministries and air traffic control. In Germany, the airports in Dortmund, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Bremen, Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and Münster/Osnabrück have shut down. All arrivals and departures there have been cancelled. Furthermore, since 8:00h local time Frankfurt Airport suspended all flights. Passengers who have booked flights from the above-mentioned airports are requested not to travel to the airport and to keep up-to-date with the status of their flights via:
Arrival & Departure
Passengers travelling within Germany can switch to a journey by rail with Deutsche Bahn, if their flights have to be cancelled. For that purpose, they must exchange their electronic ticket (etix) for a travel voucher at a Lufthansa counter.
Lufthansa expects severe delays and numerous cancellations for the regions affected. Passengers whose flights have been cancelled will be rebooked on other flights (which must be taken by 31 May). Alternatively, if they wish to cancel their ticket, they will receive a refund. Further information is available from the Lufthansa Service Center or out of Germany tall free under 0800 8 50 60 70. Due to the exceptional circumstances, customers may face longer than normal waiting times.
At present it is not possible to predict how the air traffic situation in Europe will progress. Lufthansa is keeping a close eye on developments and is in constant contact with the relevant ministries, aviation authorities, meteorological services and airports.