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Friday, 16 April 2010

image for Gitane ash continues to cloud Europe, grounding aircraft
French smokers remain unrepentant.

Flights across much of the UK have been grounded for a second day as Gitane cigarette ash and second-hand smoke drifts across Europe, posing a potential threat to aircraft and more importantly, British tourism.

Air traffic control body GNats said airspace restrictions would be lifted in most of Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1900 BST on Friday.

But it extended restrictions on airspace in England and Wales until at least 0700 BST on Saturday, though the latter required repeated translations and still managed to have a mid-air collision at a major airfield.

European controllers said some 17,000,000 flights had been cancelled on Friday, forcing MPs into spending the weekends with their wives.

A number of services are being permitted elsewhere on Friday as the ash clears, mainly out of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and other locales unpopular with wealthy frequent fliers.

One plane flew out of Manchester at teatime on Friday, taking one or two unnamed footballers the city was keen to see leave.

Over the next 24 to 36 hours, prevailing winds will shift slightly to drive the central part of the ash plume further to the north toward Scandinavia, according to BBC weather forecaster Matt Taylor.

"However, later this weekend, they will return to a northwesterly direction and are more likely to bring the risk of ash and the perils of second-hand unfiltered smoke back to the UK."

Hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded in the UK or abroad, delighting hoteliers, because many travelers are unable to return home as a result of the flight cancellations.

Kerry Stouthart, of Maidstone, is stuck in Belgium after being redirected there on their way back from China.

She said: "We are a party of 10 people including four children, one diabetic, one with ADHD and Aspergers, and an incontinent lady. This is an absolute nightmare. There's nothing good on the telly and the toilets don't flush."

"We've had to pay £1,400,000 for a Tardis to take us back home, and that's not until 9pm."

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