By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE volcanic ash cloud is refusing to give the travel industry breathing space and it is being forecast to continue causing problems all summer.
Yesterday, however, it was a case of role reversal with outbound UK flights being cancelled as the cloud of volcanic ash moves across Spain with over 50 domestic and international Palma bound flights cancelled.

Across Spain, 19 northern airports were closed including Barcelona because of the cloud of ash blowing south from a volcano in Iceland.
The government said over 400 flights would be cancelled, leaving almost 40'000 people stuck in airports stretching from La Coruna in the northwest to Barcelona in the northeast.

Air traffic was last night expected to have been affected until 2a.m. this morning, at the earliest, at which time flights would gradually resume.
However, the government said there was a chance the cloud could still be affecting Spain next week. “We don't rule it out and we will make alternative plans,” Transport Minister Jose Blanco told a news conference.
He said extra places had been made available on long-distance trains, and extra buses and boats were being laid on to help people reach their destinations.

Transatlantic flights were being re-routed around the affected area, causing substantial delays.
Sweeping closures of European airspace last month disrupted the travel of millions of passengers in Europe and elsewhere, and cost airlines over a billion euros in revenues.

Scientific assessments led to a decision to restrict closures to areas of higher ash concentration, after lower concentrations were found not to be damaging aircraft engines.

The European air traffic agency Eurocontrol warned yesterday of a rise in emissions from the volcano, Eyjafjallajokull. “The area of potential ash contamination is expanding in particular between the ground and 20'000 feet,” it said.
But fears that the ash would shut airspace over Portugal and southern France were not immediately borne out.
Authorities said problems could begin in France tomorrow. “Logically, we will be spared until Monday noon, based on current forecasts,” a French aviation authority spokesman said.
And, in the UK, the met. office warned that Northerly winds over the UK could move ash back over Ireland and western Scotland today or later in the week.

Forecaster Victoria Kettley from MeteoGroup said: “It looks as if Ireland and western Scotland could be affected. The wind is northerly rather than north westerly so it will not bring the ash right across the UK.

On Wednesday an area of low pressure over Iceland is expected to take the ash away from the UK. In the meantime, air passengers are advised to keep a close eye on travel news and developments.