Anzac tourists likely to reach Gallipoli in time

By Michael Dickison, AAP

The first flight out of Sydney to northern Europe after the reopening of European airspace is due to leave this afternoon.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ222 will leave Sydney Airport at 3.15pm (5.15pm NZT) for Singapore, where it is expected to arrive at 9.55pm Singapore time.

From there the flight will depart for London at 11.30pm Singapore time.

A second Singapore Airlines flight, SQ234 will leave Sydney Airport at 5.50pm for Singapore, and is expected to arrive there at 12.10pm local time.

From there, passengers will connect to flights to Copenhagen, Zurich and Rome.

Other flights out of Sydney on Wednesday include Singapore Airlines flight SQ322, which leaves Sydney Airport at 11.30pm.

Singapore Airlines Australia spokeswoman Susan Bredow said people wishing to go to Gallipoli for Anzac Day were likely to get to Istanbul in time.

"Gallipoli is looking good," she said.

Visa waiver for tourists trapped in NZ

Visa fees have been waived for stranded travellers needing to renew their permits to stay in New Zealand after six days of flight disruptions.

Britain's airports reopened this morning, after days of air travel chaos caused by ash cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

One Air New Zealand flight left Los Angeles this morning, and two evening flights leaving Auckland at 9.30pm and 11.15pm are expected to fly through to Britain.

But a severe backlog of stranded passengers will take days to clear up.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman announced today that Immigration New Zealand will waive fees for people needing permits to stay in New Zealand because of the flight delays to Europe.

"Airlines are looking to recommence normal services, but there will still be a backlog of passengers. We don't want to cause any further unnecessary stress to tourists by charging them money to stay in New Zealand longer than they were expecting," Dr Coleman said.

People who paid for a visa in the last few days may be eligible for a refund.

"Air New Zealand would like to reiterate that conditions in the UK/Europe remain very changeable and services could be delayed or disrupted at any point," it said in a statement at 11.10am.

Normal services would recommence from tomorrow, with the airline looking to add extra flights between London and Auckland where possible.

Passengers stranded in Hong Kong and Los Angeles on their way to London would be given first priority, followed by those with existing bookings on scheduled services, and then passengers in a chronological order from their original point of delay.

European airports reopen

Germany's air traffic controllers have gradually reopened the country's airspace - the busiest in Europe - after days of closures and limited activity, as stranded passengers finally saw hope of getting home.

But severe delays were still expected across Europe and the world as airlines moved their planes around and tried to cope with the backlog caused by volcanic ash floating across the continent.

German skies will be gradually reopened for regular flights during the morning hours, the German government agency Deutsche Flugsicherung said in Langen near Frankfurt.

"There is a good chance that the airspace above Germany and all international airports will remain available until late in the evening," the agency said.

Britain's Transport Secretary announced that airports would resume services at 10pm on Tuesday (9am this morning NZT) after talks with air safety regulators overnight (NZT).

Many European flights earlier took to the skies.

Cheers and applause broke out as flights took off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, Amsterdam and elsewhere.

Chris James, arriving at Heathrow from Mauritius, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that passengers on his flight didn't know they would land in London until 45 minutes before their plane touched down.

"Initially it was quite a stressful situation, we didn't know what was happening," James said.

However, Qantas flights to the UK and Europe will remain grounded until the airline is certain it can land its planes.

Emirates is also not accepting passengers on Australian flights bound for London or Frankfurt, but will fly to other European destinations.

Singapore Airlines plans to start flying from Australia to London with at least one flight expected to depart sometime on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, German airspace remained officially closed but 800 planes were allowed to land or take off, all flying at low altitude.

Scottish airports let in a handful of domestic flights, while Switzerland and northern Italy also opened their airspace. Some flights took off from Asia to southern Europe and came in from Cairo, where at least 17,000 people had been stranded.

Polish aviation authorities said they planned to reopen the country's airspace on Wednesday morning (Wednesday night NZT).

Backlog

The Eurocontrol air traffic agency in Brussels said it expected just under half of Europe's 27,500 flights to go ahead on Tuesday local time and close to normal takeoffs by Friday.

But with more than 95,000 flights cancelled in the last week alone, airlines faced the enormous task of working through the backlog to get passengers where they want to go.

Passengers with current tickets were being given priority - stranded passengers were being told to either pay for a new ticket, take the first available flight or to use their old ticket and wait for days, or weeks, for the first available seat.

"Once your flight's cancelled, you go to the back of the queue," said Laurie Price, director of aviation strategy at consultant Mott Macdonald, who was stranded in Halifax, Canada. "It seems intrinsically unfair."

Although seismic activity at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano has increased, the ash plume appears to be shrinking.

Tremors from the volcano, which geologists believe to be caused by magma rising through the crust, can also be heard and felt as far as 25 kilometres from the crater.

An international pilots group yesterday warned of continued danger because of the ash, which was being pushed back over Britain by shifting north winds.

A Eurocontrol volcanic ash map listed the airspace between Iceland, Britain and Ireland as a no-fly zone, along with much of the area around the Baltic Sea.

The ash cloud also spread westward from Iceland, toward Greenland and Canada's eastern coastline.

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