Qantas estimates flights to Europe and the UK will not be operating again until Sunday as a volcanic ash cloud blasting out of an Icelandic glacier caused massive disruptions to global air traffic.
The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier is spewing a plume of grey ash up to 10 kilometres high across the Atlantic, closing major airports more than 2,000 kilometres away in the most extensive shutdown of airspace since the September 11 attacks in 2001, ABC Online reported.
Authorities in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium also closed their air space. France shut down 24 airports, including the main hub of Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Germany's Berlin and Hamburg were shut Thursday evening, and several flights out of the U.S. had to double back.
Kyla Evans, spokeswoman for air traffic service Eurocontrol, said half of all trans-Atlantic flights were expected to be canceled Friday.
At London's Heathrow airport, normally one of the world's busiest with more than 1,200 flights and 180,000 travelers a day, passengers stared forlornly at departure boards on which every flight was listed as canceled.
A volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier began erupting Wednesday for the second time in less than a month, triggering floods and shooting smoke and steam miles into the air. Video showed spectacular images of hot gases melting the thick ice, sending cascades of water thundering down the steep slopes of the volcano, according to The Associated Press.