HOPES that flights in and out of Cardiff Airport would be back to normal were dented yesterday as a flight was cancelled because of concerns about volcanic ash.
Elsewhere, the RAF suspended Typhoon training flights after deposits of volcanic ash were found in the engines.
But the Civil Aviation Authority said last night the RAF’s “precautionary measure” will not ground passenger flights.
At Cardiff, a BMIbaby flight to Edinburgh due to leave at 1.35pm was cancelled, as were BMIbaby flights to the Scottish capital from East Midlands and Birmingham airports.
The airline said it was working closely with the CAA, Nats and the Met Office to monitor the situation.
Cardiff passengers paid a second time for seats on a plane operated by carrier Flybe.
The airport, which had been deserted for six days after the closure of UK airspace, was a hive of hectic activity yesterday as the first flights arrived bringing stranded holidaymakers home.
A series of unscheduled “repatriation flights” from Malaga, Las Palmas and Alicante landed at Cardiff carrying passengers destined for Bristol, London, Birmingham and elsewhere in the UK.
Special coaches were laid on for passengers who should have landed at Gatwick, Birmingham and other UK Airports.
But operational difficulties caused by the unprecedented flight ban led to confusion and more delays.
However, the majority of holidaymakers took it all in their stride.
The first flight to arrive, at 1pm, had taken off from Genoa carrying holidaymakers from Malaga.
On board were Chris Keld, his wife, Valerie, and 11 year-old son, Jamie, who should have arrived back in Bristol last Sunday.
They arrived at Cardiff having already endured a 16-hour coach trip from Malaga to Lloret de Mar.
Mr Keld, a catering manager, said: “They were planning to take us to Calais, which would have been another 20 hours-plus journey on the coach.
“But Thomson arranged a flight from Genoa and we were put on that.
“The coach journey from Malaga to Lloret de Mar was hard going because there were lot of children on it who were tired.
“But I must say that Thomson treated us very well and we are delighted to be back.”
Meanwhile, a scheduled flight to Sharm el Sheikh was delayed by more than five hours due to operational difficulties. Passengers were given food vouchers to ease the pain of the delay.
Airport spokesman Steve Hodgetts said: “We predicted that their would be some confusion after the ban was lifted, with flights being cancelled, diverted or delayed. This is likely to continue for some time.
“This is happening across the UK. Passengers are being repatriated as quickly as possible.”
The discovery of volcanic ash in the Typhoon engines led to checks of all Eurofighter jets based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
The grounding of the £69m fighter jets came just two days after UK skies were reopened following an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud which stopped all flights over the UK for almost a week.
But the CAA stressed that military plane engines were very different to those of civilian aircraft and the Typhoon incident would not have an impact on passenger plane movements.
Revised airspace guidance for civilian aircraft was drawn up earlier this week by the CAA in a move which enabled UK airspace to reopen.
The guidance requires airlines to make damage inspections before and after flights and to report any ash-related incidents to the CAA.
The CAA said that so far there had been “only a very few reports from airlines and, of these, all related to visual sightings”.
The CAA spokeswoman added: “There have been no reports of damage to aircraft.”
The MoD said training flights were suspended until technicians could ensure the ash had not caused any engine damage.
A spokesman added: “These are very high-performance jets so they are just being extra cautious.”
Meanwhile, with airlines running near-normal services again, thousands of Britons were able to head back to the UK.
Around 2,200 were sailing back from Bilbao on a new £500m luxury cruise ship sent out on a rescue mission.
As travellers returned, budget airline Ryanair performed a U-turn on reimbursing passengers.
On Wednesday, the Irish no-frills carrier’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said he would reimburse travellers only the original price of their air fare and no more.
But yesterday the airline said it would comply with the regulations under which EU airlines are required to reimburse the “reasonable receipted expenses of disrupted passengers”.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis welcomed what he described as Ryanair’s “revised statement”, saying the Government and the CAA had told Ryanair “in the strongest terms” that they were expected to comply with the EU regulations.
Later, Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said a Conservative government “would conduct a wholesale review of the rules governing compensation and travel insurance arrangements”.
Mr O’Leary said the EU regulations were “absurd and discriminatory”. He also said European governments and regulators had been wrong to apply a blanket ban on flights.
Budget airline easyJet, which ran a full service yesterday, said it had already paid for 100,000 hotel nights for stranded passengers.