Iceland volcano
A farmer walks through a thick cloud of volcanic ash from the Grimsvotn volcano near Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Photo by Bloomberg
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Yet again an Icelandic volcano threatened to wreak havoc on global aviation - but dire concerns of mass disruption seem unfounded. The eruption seems to have peaked and airports are reopening for business but Israeli airlines are keeping a sharp eye on developments. At this stage, say representatives of the Israeli airlines, no steps are being taken and flights to and from the British Isles continue as usual.

As the cloud of volcanic ash rolled over the oceans and reached Scotland and parts of northern England, British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair canceled their flights to and from Scotland and Ireland on Tuesday. Ryanair at least intends to sue, claiming the shutdown had been overdone caution and had been unnecessary. It said it had flown a plane over parts of Scotland deemed to have high levels of ash and encountered no ash cloud. An inspection revealed no evidence of ash on the airframe, wings or engines.

Thousands of passengers had been forced to abandon their travel plans. One such was Xavier Rolet, the CEO of the London Stock Exchange, who had planned to visit Tel Aviv this week. His trip was canceled. Another traveler affected by the uncertainty was U.S. President Barack Obama, who left Ireland for Britain late on Monday, ahead of schedule. The Barcelona soccer team flew to London early for Saturday's Champions League final against Manchester United.

Officials surmise that Europe's airways will be less disrupted than a year ago. The Saturday eruption of Iceland's most active volcano, Grimsvötn, beneath the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, seems to be already running out of steam. The eruption last year of Eyjafjallajökull had shut down European aviation almost totally for six days and affected airports in the path of the ash cloud for weeks.

British flight schedules could return to normal as soon as today, British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters yesterday.

European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said around 500 flights were canceled yesterday.

There were no immediate reports of threats to large airports such as London Heathrow, but controllers said Denmark, Norway and Sweden could see some disruption by today.

Uncertainties remain, though. For one thing, the eruption could regain force. For another, strong winds are expected to waft the particle cloud westward later in the week, which is what happened last April. Then more than 100,000 flights were canceled.