A huge volcanic eruption in Iceland has forced Aeroflot to suspend flights to much of northern and western Europe due to dangerous clouds of ash in the sky.
Flights to London, Paris, Riga, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Munich, and Kaliningrad have been cancelled.
Aeroflot is closely monitoring the situation in St Petersburg, Murmansk and Kalinigrad and has set up a crisis centre,
Passengers on the cancelled flights will receive free meals and hotel rooms. They will be able to leave as soon as the airports open.
At the moment more than 30 European flights from Moscow airports by Russian companies Aeroflot and Transaero and foreign carriers, are delayed indefinitely.
A volcano below Eyjafjallajokull glacier, 200 km east of Reykjavik started erupting on Wednesday; a huge cloud of volcanic ash was carried to the sky over the Northern Europe, paralysing air traffic. At the same time, the sky over Iceland is completely clear.
The first country to close its airspace was Norway, followed by Sweden and Great Britain. Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Finland followed suit on Thursday evening.
Airports in Northern Germany and France are closed for traffic. Brussels, Geneva, Warsaw, Amsterdam and Tallinn are affected.
Eurocontrol expects around 11,000 flights to take place today in European airspace, on a normal day, they would expect 28,000, says the message on the air traffic controller's website. The agency says the disruptions could last for further 48 hours.
The ash's impact was felt further afield, with intercontinental flights routed through Heathrow and Frankfurt also forced to cancel. Many Asian companies, including Japanese and Singapore airlines, had to stop flights via northern Europe.
Volcanic ash poses a threat to turbines of the planes' engines and can cause problems if it lands on the wings.
In 1982, all four engines of a British Airways Boeing 747 were shut down after the plane flew through the cloud of volcanic ash on its way to Perth, Australia. The plane fell for nearly four miles, before one engine was started again and the plane was able to make an emergency landing.
"The length of the eruptions varies from a few days to a year," Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, an Icelandic geophysicist informed. The ash could cause disruptions in air traffic for up to six months, reports Reuters.
The activity of the volcano increased in the last two days. If it does not diminish, in a few days the cloud of ash could cover most of the Northern Hemisphere.Meanwhile clouds of volcanic ash have reached the Moscow region, reports the agency. They do not pose a threat for the population.