Chaos continues for air travellers

Kate ScotterThe chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland will continue over the weekend, with planes from and to Norwich International Airport likely to be grounded until at least Sunday morning - but a growing number of insurers last night agreed to pay out to stranded passengers.Kate Scotter

The chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland will continue over the weekend, with planes from and to Norwich International Airport likely to be grounded until at least Sunday morning - but a growing number of insurers have agreed to pay out to stranded passengers.

The ash cloud has prevented nearly all flights, including all to and from the city, from entering or leaving the UK since noon on Thursday, wrecking travel plans and leaving thousands stranded.

Because of concerns the ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano would be sucked into engines and cause turbines to grind to a halt, most planes were due to stay on the ground until at least 7am on Sunday as the restriction on British airspace was extended.

A spokesman for Norwich airport said: 'All flights in and out of Norwich International Airport have either been cancelled or re-scheduled at this time.

'Passengers are advised to contact their airline prior to travel over the next 48hrs.'

Passengers are being told to contact their tour operator or airline for details about when their flights might be rescheduled.

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Air traffic control company Nats said the volcanic ash cloud was 'moving around and changing shape'.

A spokesman said a few domestic flights might operate within Scotland and Northern Ireland today, but added: 'It is most unlikely that many flights will operate today and anyone hoping to travel should contact their airline before travelling to the airport.'

And there were warnings today that volcanic eruptions in Iceland could continue for months, leading to protracted travel chaos for millions of passengers. Volcanologists said it was impossible to predict when the eruptions might stop.

Health experts also issued a warning to people with asthma or other respiratory problems as a small fraction of ash from the Icelandic volcanic plume reached ground level. .

But, for the families facing misery after being stranded abroad, there was better news after a number of insurance companies, including Norwich-based Aviva, agreed to pay out compensation.

Natwest, HSBC, Fortis and Direct Line had all said they would offer compensation to their policyholders under certain circumstances - although Aviva stressed its move was a 'goodwill gesture'.

However, the Association of British Insurers stressed people needed to check their policies carefully and warned many will find themselves unable to claim for compensation.

Charlotte Hartley, 29, from Norwich, is stranded in San Diego with her boyfriend Richard.

She said: 'We got to the airport on Thursday and they said our flight had been cancelled, and we couldn't rebook another one before Tuesday, which means we will get back to England on Wednesday.

'It's a bit of a problem because my boyfriend is a teacher and is supposed to be back at school on Monday. We are trying to work out what we can claim on insurance.'

Dorothy Greengrass and her husband Deryck, who are both in their 80s, had been looking forward to celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary with their family today.

But because of the volcanic ash, their daughter Judy and her husband Keith are stuck in The Gambia and unable to make the big day.

Mr Greengrass, from Lakenham, said: 'They are still stuck at the airport and they won't be able to get back. We are so disappointed they won't be there for the party.'

Three school trips of Norwich High School for Girls pupils have also been affected by the situation.

Stephen Orton, educational visits co-ordinator at the school, said: 'We have got one group of about 40 girls in Rome…and we are now trying to negotiate with BA to get them an urgent flight back, but if that doesn't happen then they'll have an extra couple of days' holiday.'

Mr Orton said another group of about 30 pupils was stranded in the United States and added: 'There's one more group in Germany, which is not due back until Monday, so we are hoping it will literally all have blown over by then. All the girls are safe and well though, and are being very well looked after.'

Weather forecasters said it was difficult to tell when the ash plume will disappear.

Phil Garner, from the University of East Anglia-based WeatherQuest, said: 'There's no real change in the weather pattern over the next 24 hours and while we are still getting these northerly winds, there is still a risk of the ash coming over.'

Budget carrier Ryanair last night announced a blanket ban on all flights to and from the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, northern France, northern Germany, Poland and the Baltic States until 1pm on Monday.

Norwich International Airport's Thomas Cook charter flight to Dalaman on Friday night was among those cancelled and the holiday company said passengers would be offered an alternative holiday to take before the end of October - or a full refund. People should ring 01274 724363.

Have you been badly affected by the disruption? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email