BRITAIN’S skies reopened last night after flying restrictions over the UK were eased.
Airlines rushed to reorganise schedules after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) eased the rules allowing a phased reopening of airspace from 10pm.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said all British airports could reopen and he expected them to remain open.
Willie Walsh, British Airways’ chief executive, said he was “delighted” at the move.
“On behalf of the tens of thousands of customers stranded around the globe, we are delighted the authorities have paid heed to the arguments we and the industry have put forward,” he said.
“We are now going to start the difficult task of getting our stranded customers home.
“This is an airlift which has been unprecedented.”
A spokesman for BAA, which operates airports including Heathrow, said it would do everything possible to “get people moving”.
“We are ready to open, but until further notice passengers must contact their airline before travelling to the airport,” the spokesman said.
“Not all flights will operate during the early period of opening, and we will do everything we can to support airlines and get people moving.”
Cardiff Airport is expected to decided this morning on when to resume flights. A spokeswoman said last night everyone scheduled on flights must contact their airlines before travelling.
Just before 10pm a BA flight from Vancouver, in Canada, touched down at Heathrow.
Lord Adonis said there was now a “better” understanding of the effect of volcanic ash on aircraft.
“The CAA have been working around the clock with the aircraft manufacturing industry, the airlines and the research community to better understand how different concentrations of ash affect aircraft engines,” he said.
“As a result, the CAA has now established a wider area in which it is safe to fly, consistent with the framework agreed by the EU transport ministers yesterday.
“In addition to this change in restrictions, we are maintaining increased capacity to help passengers get home. In total there are an extra 20,000 passenger places a day across Eurostar, Eurotunnel and the Channel ferries.”
Five coaches carrying 250 Britons were leaving Madrid last night after the British Embassy there managed to arrange transport. The passengers will be driven to Calais before boarding a ferry across the Channel.
An easyJet spokesman said it would take “several days” to get services back to normal.
“Following the re-opening of airspace across the UK and Europe, easyJet plans to resume some services across the UK and Continental Europe from [Wednesday] morning,” he said.
“Due to the extent of the disruption, it will take several days to resume normal operations and delays are likely. Passengers booked on an easyJet flight on Wednesday should go to www.easyJet.com before travelling to the airport to find the latest status of their flight.”
Virgin Atlantic said it was working on contingency plans to restart flights to and from the UK over the next 24 hours.
East Midlands Airport said it would resume operations but added commercial flights would be “dependent on the decisions made by airlines and tour operators”.
Operator bmi said it would resume services this morning with some flights from 9.15am.
A spokesman for London City Airport warned of a “significant number of cancellations” when it re-opened today.
CAA said a “phased reintroduction” of availability of UK air space started at 10pm but added there would “continue to be some no fly zones where concentrations of ash are at levels unsafe for flights”.
But it said the restricted areas would be “very much smaller than the present restrictions”, with Met Office guidance saying there were not any no fly zones currently over the UK.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister welcomes the decision by the Civil Aviation Authority to allow UK airspace to be used from this evening following rigorous analysis and testing of the flying conditions.”