April 20th, 2010
05:40 PM ET

British airspace reopens after five days

A British Airways flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, landed at London's Heathrow airport late Tuesday, the first commercial airliner to do so in five days after ash from a volcano in Iceland disrupted air travel across Europe. 

British Airways Flight 084 landed shortly before 10 p.m. (5 p.m. ET), just over an hour after Britain's Civil Aviation Authority announced that it would reopen British airspace. 

No commercial flight had landed at Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, since Thursday afternoon. All other British airports were also set to reopen at 10 p.m., Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis said after the aviation authority's announcement.

Airspace will reopen in phases and some "no-fly zones" will remain in place where concentrations of ash are at unsafe levels, the CAA said. The restrictions, however, will be much less than what commercial airliners faced in the past week.

The flight from Vancouver was one of more than two dozen British Airways flights already in the air bound for London when the CAA announcement was made. They took off hoping there would be a window of opportunity to land the planes at Heathrow or Gatwick airports, a company representative told CNN. 

The 25 planes took off from the West Coast of the United States, Africa, India and other locations in Asia. A 26th plane that had hoped to reach London was sent to Brussels, Belgium, instead, British Airways said. 

"We are very pleased that the aviation authorities have opened U.K. airspace to enable us to begin in earnest the task of bringing our stranded customers home," British Airways said in a statement. 

But the airline warned it would take "some considerable time" before it can get its full schedule back on track. 

The airline said it hopes to operate all long-haul flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports by Wednesday.

Read the full CNN.com story

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