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German airports reopen after volcanic ash cloud delay

The Icelandic volcano ash cloud drifting over Northern Europe grounded hundreds of flights, frustrating travelers.

People line up at the ticket counter of the Air Berlin airline at Tegel airport in Berlin after all flights were cancelled due to volcanic ash in the skies over northern Germany, on May 25.

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

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Airports in northern Germany, including Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen, closed for nearly six hours this morning as ash from the Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn reached the country’s airspace.

About 700 flights had to be canceled, affecting tens of thousands of passengers, according to the European air traffic agency, Eurocontrol. As of Wednesday, all airports have reopened. The closures have raised some questions about Germany's airport regulations.

“Security is our top priority,” said German transport minister Peter Ramsauer on public television ARD. After last year’s eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano crippled air-traffic in the Northern hemisphere for weeks and led to the cancellation of about 100,000 flights, Germany introduced strict limits: If the concentration of ash in the air surpasses 2 milligrams per cubic meter, planes are grounded.

Critics argue that these limits are arbitrary and inconsistent with the regulations in the rest of Europe. Germany pilots association Cockpit, says that the restrictions were introduced without scientific foundations.

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