Mount Etna: UK travellers warned of delays after volcanic eruption grounds flights at Sicily’s Catania airport

Holidaymakers travelling to Sicily have been warned of delays after nearby Mount Etna volcano erupted on Sunday.
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UK holidaymakers travelling to eastern Sicily on Monday (May 22) have been warned of delays after the nearby Mount Etna volcano erupted on Sunday which left black ash on runways and vehicles.

Footage from the incident showed a hazy mist blanketing the highways and flakes of dark, gritty ash scattering over car windscreens. Flights into and out of Catania, a popular tourist destination, have been halted until 9am local time on Monday.

In a tweet posted at 6am, Catania Airport said: “From 9am (8am UK time), the airport will be operational again and flight operations will be restored, with initial limitations. Delays may occur. Passengers are requested to inquire about flight status with the airlines.”

British Airways, Wizz Air, and EasyJet all fly to Catania Airport. The flights are available from London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, Bristol Airport, Birmingham Airport, Manchester Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport, Edinburgh Airport. However, a check on their websites indicate that the flights heading to Sicily remain on schedule.

Europe’s most active volcano can erupt several times a year, spewing lava and ash high above the Mediterranean island, reported Sky News. However, it has not erupted in a significant way since 1922.

According to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), which closely monitors Etna with instruments set on its slopes, the blasts often create a sight of blazing lava, but cloud cover on the wet day concealed views of this eruption.

It was reported that ash had fallen on Catania and at least one other town located lower down the slopes of the 3,330-metre-high volcano. The INGV reported that monitoring has shown evidence of an increase in tremor activity in recent days.

What to do if your flights are cancelled?

Under UK law, airlines must provide passengers with care and assistance in the event of a flight cancellation. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, many airlines will provide vouchers to buy food and drink. If you require accommodation, they may book a hotel and arrange transportation for you.

 Holidaymakers travelling to Sicily have been warned of delays after nearby Mount Etna volcano erupted on Sunday. (Photo by Salvatore Allegra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Holidaymakers travelling to Sicily have been warned of delays after nearby Mount Etna volcano erupted on Sunday. (Photo by Salvatore Allegra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Holidaymakers travelling to Sicily have been warned of delays after nearby Mount Etna volcano erupted on Sunday. (Photo by Salvatore Allegra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Sometimes airlines however, are unable to arrange care and assistance for all passengers. This can happen when staff are stretched during major disruptions.

It said: “If this happens, in our view you have the right to organise reasonable care and assistance yourself, then claim the cost back later. If you end up paying for things yourself, keep every receipt and do not spend more than is reasonable. Airlines are unlikely to refund you for things like luxury hotels or alcohol. Some will provide guidance on reasonable costs.

“We would expect the airline concerned to respond to a claim for reimbursement in a reasonable time and at the very least provide you with an indication of how long you should expect to wait for a response. If you are unhappy with the length of time it is taking or disagree with the airline’s decision regarding your claim, please see our section on how to make a complaint.”

Passengers are also entitled to compensation, if you received less than 14 days’ notice of the cancellation. However, if it wasn’t the airline’s fault, such as disruptions caused by things like extreme weather, airport or air traffic control employee strikes or other ‘extraordinary circumstances’, passengers are not eligible for compensation.

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