Ash cloud: German flights to be disrupted

The Icelandic ash cloud that affected thousands of passengers in the UK was set to blow towards Germany Wednesday, disrupting flights in the country's north.

Ash from the erupting Grimsvotn volcano swept across northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland Tuesday, grounding about 500 flights.

Air traffic control experts said the concentrations of ash in the British airspace were expected to clear overnight and flights are expected to resume across the UK, BBC reports.

The ash is heading towards Germany, where air safety officials said flights would be grounded at Bremen Airport after 5 A.M. on Wednesday and at Hamburg Airport after 6 A.M., AFP reports.

Airlines are also expected to cancel some fights to Norway and Sweden.

Authorities ground flights because they say they fear the ash can damage planes and stop engines.

The eruption of Grimsvotn has sparked fears of a repeat of last year’s shutdown of European airspace after another Icelandic volcano spewed plumes of ash into the sky.

Last year's disaster caused the biggest closure of European airspace since World War II.

The disruptions this year have not been as bad, partly because Europe is better able to handle the situation, according to authorities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commissioner, told ABC News in Australia that Europe is now better able to provide a graduated response to the situation. This will hopefully prevent closing Europe's entire airspace.

However, Irish budget airline Ryanair, which objects to restrictions placed on airlines arising from the ash cloud, flew a plane safely though the thickest part of the volcano's ash cloud in Scottish airspace Tuesday.

"There was no visible volcanic ash cloud or any other presence of volcanic ash and the post-flight inspection revealed no evidence of volcanic ash on the airframe, wings or engines," the airline said in a statement as reported in the Telegraph.

Nonetheless, Ryanair "reluctantly" canceled its flights to and from Scotland, AFP reports.