(KTLA-TV)

(KTLA-TV)

LOS ANGELES -- Flights from Los Angeles to Europe were still being disrupted Sunday, amid a widespread airline stoppage resulting from a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Airports across northern Europe remained closed Sunday. European air traffic could return to about 50 percent of normal levels Monday if weather forecasts confirm that skies over half the continent are emptying of the volcanic ash.

The clouds of volcanic ash contain microscopic fragments of rock and pumice that could damage jet engines and vital instruments on airplanes.

Airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France and Lufthansa have cancelled all flights, although Air France was able to operate three special flights from Toulouse to the West Indies and Canada.

At LAX Sunday, 33 flights (18 arriving and 15 departing) have been cancelled by airlines serving London/Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich. The estimated number of passengers affected is 8,250.

On Saturday, 29 flights (15 arriving and 14 departing) have been cancelled by airlines serving London/Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Zurich. The estimated number of passengers affected is 7,250, according to LAX public relations representative Marshall Lowe.

On Friday, 23 total flights were cancelled, impacting approximately 6,500 passengers. And on Thursday, 17 flights were cancelled, impacting approximately 4,500 passengers.

Passengers booked on flights to the UK and Europe are advised to check with their airlines on flight status before coming to the airport.

CHECK YOUR FLIGHT STATUS AT LAX


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Thousands of passengers have been stranded at European airports, and the stoppage was said to be the most significant since the 2001 terror attacks.

Most of northern and central Europe's airspace has been shut down, affecting airports from New Zealand to San Francisco.

But European airlines are pushing national regulators to reopen airspace across Europe, saying the ash appears to have diminished enough to make flying safe.

The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation began allowing flights Saturday above Swiss air space as long as the aircraft were at least at 36,000 feet (11,000 meters). It also allowed flights at lower altitudes under visual flight rules, aimed at small, private aircraft.

Air France said it will conduct test flights "to improve knowledge of the impact of the ash cloud on airplanes." The first flight, in an Airbus A320 carrying no passengers, was to take off Sunday afternoon from an unspecified location in southwest France.

The planes would undergo inspections afterward, Air France said, adding it got approval from the French civil aviation authority for the flights and is in touch with other European airlines doing the same thing.

Germany extended closure of its airports through 1800GMT Sunday and Britain until 0000 GMT. Dutch restrictions also remained in place, though the Dutch Transport Ministry said it was allowing further test flights.

"The goal of these test flights is to make measurements in Dutch airspace about the possible consequences of the ash on the airplane parts," the ministry said in a statement.

Airspace remained closed in Denmark, Finland and most parts of Sweden on Sunday. In Norway, authorities lifted air travel restrictions in the central part of the country, but kept airspace closed in other parts of the country, including the capital, Oslo.

The ash plume, which rose to between 20,000 feet and 36,000 feet (6,000 meters and 11,000 meters), lies above the Atlantic Ocean close to the flight paths for most routes from the U.S. east coast to Europe.

It was unclear how long atmosphere would be fouled, because the volcano was still erupting Saturday.

The International Air Transport Association says the volcano is costing the industry at least $200 million a day.