BRUSSELS - Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland has reminded the world again that it has the power to disrupt international travel - coughing out a spreading cloud of ash that delayed or cancelled hundreds of flights between Europe and North America.

The prospects for flights remain grim, with no improvement in sight for transatlantic passengers, and with a plume of low-altitude ash continuing to float eastward over Spain and southern France.

Flights had to be rerouted north over Greenland or south around Spain to avoid the 2000km cloud stretching from Iceland to northern Spain.

About 600 airliners cross the ocean every day. About 40 per cent were rerouted southward and the rest skirted Iceland from the north, Eurocontrol officials said.

In Italy, the civil aviation authority ENAC said no flights would be allowed over a large swath of northern Italy . Only the northeast corner of Italy was spared, leaving the airports of Venice, Trieste and Rimini open.

In Spain, 19 airports in the north, including the international hub Barcelona, were closed.

On a normal day, European air traffic control centers handle between 26,000 and 30,000 flights.

- AP