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May 22, 2011 6:34 AM   Subscribe

What are the odds that yesterday's volcano eruption in Reykyavik has nixed my Iceland Air flight 6 days from now?

I've got a ticket on Iceland Air from NYC to London, leaving 9 pm on Friday the 27th (the return is on American). I must leave at this approximate time; I have a ticket to a play in London on the evening of Saturday the 28th.

The Iceland Air web site is stating that they'll have service disruptions today (the 22nd) and tomorrow (the 23rd), but they say nothing about flights on the 27th. Should I hang in there, or cancel now and get another flight?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Travel & Transportation around Reykjavik, Iceland (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No way to know. Considering that eruptions in Iceland don't routinely cause the amount of havoc we saw in the Eyjafjallajökul eruption, pretty good?

If your flight is direct NYC to London without a stop in Keflavik, then i don't see what good a change of carrier will do. If you can't fly over the Atlantic, you can't fly over the Atlantic.
posted by abx1-se at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2011

On the negative side eye witness reports suggest that this might be the largest eruption in recent decades in Iceland. European experts are also right now stating that ash will enter British, French and Spanish airspace on Tuesday if the eruption doesn't decrease.
posted by abx1-se at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2011

If your flight is direct NYC to London without a stop in Keflavik, then i don't see what good a change of carrier will do.

Nah, it's got a stop in Keflavik, at about 7 am on the 28th.

It's going back and forth in the news reports I'm seeing -- some people are saying that the particulate matter in the ash cloud is too coarse to stay airbound as long as with last year's volcano, and also the winds are blowing it northward. Others are saying it's too soon to tell.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2011

No one is going to be able to answer this question for you, unfortunately. But advice? I would be booking another ticket - a refundable one or at least changeable to another date to use in the future. That way you can keep your original ticket if it's a go.

And if you're booking a new transatlantic flight, give yourself a few extra hours of leeway. Transatlantic routes will not be canceled, but possibly re-routed. My LHR-Toronto flight 2 weeks after volcano-mania last spring took 9.5 hours.
posted by meerkatty at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2011

In that case I would personally try to switch if possible. Last report i saw quoted geologists stating that this eruption is 10x more powerful than Eyjafjallajökull. Even if the ash is course and doesn't stay airborne very long it could easily reach Keflavik and disrupt flights.
posted by abx1-se at 9:45 AM on May 22, 2011

I'm actually okay with switching to a different airline; I've seen halfway decent fares through Virgin and such. I'm more concerned by, "will I be able to fly at all or will they ground everything in Europe across the board like they did last year."

I was running some errands today and stopped in a travel office, and they suggested that I keep monitoring the situation until Tuesday or Wednesday. Even if I have to pony up another few hundred dollars for a different ticket that goes through Spain or something, I'd be okay -- the nightmare scenario I'm worried about is more like last year's "no one is flying to any location anywhere in Europe for the next two weeks" incident.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2011

abx1-se: Actually, it seems the reports are saying that this "is ten times more powerful than the last eruption in Grímsvötn in 2004" - not 10x more than the one last year.
posted by gchucky at 7:38 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just spoke with someone at Iceland Air, who is actually in Iceland at the moment -- she said that they plan to re-open Keflavik this afternoon, so there are very good odds I will make it. It'll be a day-by-day thing, but the odds are good. (She also said that things seem to be settling down a bit. I was so excited and grateful that I inquired after her family's health and wished them all well. She just laughed and said "eh, we're used to volcanoes...")

We'll keep watching the news, though; I've also spoken with my employer about whether I could fly out a day or two earlier if I have to; if Iceland Air changes its fortunes again, I may just get an outbound flight on another airline entirely one day earlier to beat the ash. So I do have that leeway. But one way or another, I will get to London.

However, anyone wishing to send good fortune my way, I would not turn down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on May 23, 2011

Thank you so much for asking this: I booked my daughter a 21st Birthday present of a week in Las Vegas exiting Dublin on the 26th May. Right now Obama is leaving Ireland early because they say the ash-cloud will close Irish airspace by early tomorrow.

It does look likely to cause disruption but the ash seems to be thicker & less problematic than last year.
posted by Wilder at 11:00 AM on May 23, 2011

gchucky: I've seen both of these reports. Of course they don't state exactly what comparison is being made.

For those interested the Volcanic Ash Advisory in the UK provides up to date information on the dispersal of ash.
posted by abx1-se at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2011

Thanks, Wilder -- am bookmarking that map.

abx1-se, from what I understand (from my frantic refreshing of various news reports), whether or not a given plane will be allowed to fly depends on two things: a) the density of the ash in the air, and b) the ability of the airline to prove that their planes can handle that particular density. If the ash cloud in London's airspace is particularly dense, a given airline will have to either prove they can fly through it without incident, or will have to re-route.

Since the cloud looks like it's heading to the UK today, and since the woman at Iceland Air told me things were starting to settle down a tad, it may actually work out waiting until my anticipated flight time after all -- waiting until Friday means the cloud is less dense. Also, it's possible that of all European airlines, Iceland Air may be BEST suited to fly through volcanic ash because they're used to it (kind of like how a two-inch snowstorm that would flummox Baltimore is old hat to Boston and they can handle it. Also, the kind of ash is also different - it's heavier, which means it's sinking to the ground faster.

So we may be okay after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2011

And, I appear to have switched you both around for each other. Sorry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2011

Actually, a question -- that Volcanic Ash Advisory link is pretty helpful, save for the fact that it's not clear exactly what each of the colors mean. Do you know what it means whether an area is red, green, or blue?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2011

This just in (also posting this for Wilder's benefit) -- geologists in Iceland are saying that the eruption already appears to be calming down and getting a bit smaller.

Sorry for threadsitting, but this is keeping me from flailing and running around with my pants on my head here at work. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2011

I completely understand EmpressCallipygos and send you ever good thought. Ryanair just said that their airframe & engine manufacturers have certified them to fly after a 1 hour test flight over Scotland at 11 am so let me know how you get on!
posted by Wilder at 4:58 AM on May 24, 2011

Arg. Have just noticed that I made a mistake -- I am not on iceland AIR, I am on Iceland EXPRESS.

I did just check their site, and they are flying to London this afternoon - about 6 hours later than anticipated. I've also heard things will be clearing up by Friday. But Iceland Express has some very dicey reviews online, so I'm nervous for a whole new reason now.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2011

This just in: Iceland Express is reporting back-to-normal service today, and they're even selling tickets to my very itinerary tomorrow on Kayak -- so this all bodes well.

Thank you for bearing with my freakout.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:01 AM on May 26, 2011

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