Ash cloud downs flights ahead of London Book Fair
15.04.10 | Bookseller News Team

International publishers are so far reporting only minimal disruption ahead of the London Book Fair with all flights in and out of the United Kingdom grounded because of the Icelandic ash cloud. But there are concerns about international travel to the fair if the cloud does not lift by tomorrow (16th April), with some editors already reporting cancelled pre-fair appointments.

The London Book Fair has set up a helpline (, and is monitoring the situation, with updates published on its website. Alistair Burtenshaw, group exhibition director, said “our information so far is reassuring”, with many attendees already in London ahead of the fair. “We’re obviously keeping a very close eye on the situation of the temporary closure of UK airports and have created a helpdesk for anyone who has immediate concerns about this,” he said.

The latest information is that all flights to and from UK airports will be suspended until 7am tomorrow morning, with some knock-on disruption expected after the airports reopen. Airspaces in Ireland, northern Sweden and Norway have all been closed since this morning, and Denmark’s airspace will be shut from 5pm BST. A number of airports in France are also now closed.

Dan Franklin, publisher at Random House’s CCV division, said two pre-fair meetings scheduled with European publishers for this afternoon had had to be cancelled. “There’s not a flight in or out of this country at the moment. All my fair appointments are international ones, so I may have no appointments. It could cause havoc,” he said.

A number of international publishers spoken to by The Bookseller said they were due to fly in over the next couple of days and had been advised to stay in touch with their airlines, but remained positive. Alison Lowry, chief executive of Penguin SA, said: “I’m flying tomorrow evening. I’ve asked the airline and its still going ahead at the moment.”

Other attendees had already made alternative arrangements. Lasse Winkler, editor of the Swedish trade paper Svensk Bokhandels, said he had decided to board a train (bound eventually for London) when Heathrow was closed while he was boarding his flight in Sweden.

Burtenshaw said he was still expecting a busy fair: “Our information so far is reassuring in that many people arrived at the beginning of the week for a full schedule of pre-fair meetings and many others are booked to arrive over the weekend by which time we hope that the situation will have improved.” He added: “Apart from this last minute contingency, I’m happy to report that the fair is looking set to be a fully packed 3 days of a wide range of international stands, events and visitors.”

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