BRUSSELS — An Icelandic volcano reminded the world again that it has the power to disrupt international travel — coughing out a spreading cloud of ash that delayed or canceled hundreds of flights between Europe and North America on Saturday.
The prospects for today's flights remained grim, with no improvement in sight for trans-Atlantic 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 1,200-mile-long cloud stretching from Iceland to northern Spain.
Approximately 600 airliners make the oceanic crossing every day. Around 40 percent were rerouted southward and the rest skirted Iceland from the north, according to Eurocontrol.
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The disruptions to air traffic did not compare to the five-day closure of European airspace last month, which forced the cancellation of over 100,000 flights, stranded passengers around the world and causing airlines direct losses of more than 1 billion euros.
In Spain, 19 airports in the north, including the international hub Barcelona, were closed on Saturday.
The country's airport authority said more than 670 flights had been canceled. Likewise, 125 flights in and out of Portugal were canceled.
On a normal day, European air traffic control centers handle between 26,000 and 30,000 flights.
Until Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl), the volcano in southern Iceland, stops its emissions, the future course of Europe's ash crisis will depend heavily on the prevailing winds. The eruption of the glacier-capped volcano has shown no signs of stopping since it began belching ash April 13. It last erupted from 1821 to 1823.
Aer Lingus canceled flights from the United States to Dublin, citing the exceptionally circuitous routes to get around the cloud.