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Beware: Possible Volcanic Ash Cloud Might Threaten European Travel

Brittany Jones-Cooper
Editor, Yahoo Travel
August 19, 2014
ash cloud over Iceland
ash cloud over Iceland

An aerial view of the ash cloud formed by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano in 2010. (Photo: AP)

The forecast is cloudy with a chance of ash.

The Icelandic Met Office is warning that the Bardarbunga volcano may erupt due to a powerful earthquake recorded in the area. The quake is the strongest that the area has experienced since 1996, and this disturbance has upgraded the warning to orange, the second highest level, signifying an increased potential for eruption.

The real concern deals with the likelihood that the eruption could cause an ash cloud. The last time this happened it dramatically affected travelers.

You might remember the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, in 2010. It spewed out dense ash that filled the sky and impacted transportation for months. Several European countries were forced to shut down their airports for six days, and more than 10 million passengers were stranded due to the grounded flights.

Related: Birth of a Volcano: 41 Years Later, This Icelandic Town Still Thrives

ash could could create problems with flights in Europe
ash could could create problems with flights in Europe

A volcanic ash cloud could lead to flight cancellations in Europe. (Photo: AP)

The same thing happened in May 2011, when Grimsvotn volcano, also in Iceland, erupted. This forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights over Britain, and banned takeoffs and landings at airports in Germany. 

Why can’t planes just fly through the ash? According to the Civil Aviation Authority, jet aircraft engines can be damaged by the dense substance. This damage can cause engines to sputter or even shut down completely. 

So what does this mean for you? If you have a flight booked to Iceland, or anywhere in Europe, it may be time to look into travel insurance. Services like Allianz or Travel Guard have packages that allow passengers to cancel trips at any time. You can also use a site like InsureMyTrip, which will give you side-by-side comparisons of different insurance carriers. Most importantly, be sure to read the fine print. Some carriers have different rules pertaining to trip cancellation and may not include an ash cloud as a viable reason. 

WATCH: Volcanic Ash Sensor Test Conducted by Airlines:

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