Why volcanic ash clouds and planes don’t mix – what to do if you face cancellation due to ash

With Mount Agung on the verge of a full-scale eruption, what is the danger to aircraft poised by volcanic ash clouds and what to do if your flight is cancelled.

ASH cloud

Why are ash clouds dangerous for aircraft?

Back in 2010, Iceland’s hard-to-pronounce volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, caused travel chaos across Europe. The eruption shut down airports and halted air travel due to an enormous ash cloud.

Volcanic ash and planes do not mix, hence the reason for strict restrictions when it comes to taking to the skies.

Being made up of small fragments of minerals, rock and miniscule particles of glass, when volcanic ash disperses, it becomes incredibly hard to see – making it extremely hazardous.

The reason the ash is so damaging to aircraft, is that the glass in the ash melts and then sticks to various parts of an aircraft’s jet engines.

This can cause sensors to fail and block the thousands microscopic holes that direct cooling air through the engines, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Put simply, if a jet engine is exposed to concentrated levels of volcanic ash, it could result in a partial or total failure.

Can I get compensation if my flight is cancelled/delayed because of an ash cloud?

In the case of volcanic ash delays and cancellations, airlines may be able to avoid paying compensation by claiming ‘extraordinary circumstances’.

However, your airline will still have a duty of care and they must provide passengers with accommodation, meals and transport between the airport and accommodation.

To claim expenses if you don’t hear anything from your airline, you will need to write to them and reference the relevant regulations and their responsibilities – don’t forget to include any receipts.

If you can’t claim compensation from your airline, you should contact your travel insurer – check the natural disaster and weather related sections of your policy to see what’s covered. Some insurers offer additional add-ons that cover natural disasters.


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