Nicola Clark, Alan Cowell and Mark McDonald

Ash chaos ends: Six-day shutdown results in huge losses

Nicola Clark, Alan Cowell and Mark McDonald


While officials said it could take weeks for some travel to return completely to normal, some airlines in Europe and Asia said they were moving rapidly to restore flights. Eurocontrol, the agency that coordinates regional air-traffic management, said three-quarters of the 28,000 flights scheduled for European airspace were expected to fly on Wednesday — the highest proportion for days.

Late on Tuesday, Britain became the last major European country to reopen airspace closed since last Thursday by a huge cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland. The move permitted stranded travellers to begin making their way home as beleaguered carriers began resuming long-haul flights and some European services on Wednesday.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Wednesday that the crisis had cost airlines more than $1.7 billion in lost revenue through Tuesday. At its worst, the association said, “the crisis impacted 29 per cent of global aviation and affected 1.2 million passengers a day.”

Before restrictions were eased, the chaos had lasted twice as long as the three-day closing of American airspace after the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, which devastated many airlines financially. By mid-day in Paris, Air France said that it had been able to restore almost all services across its entire network, and had been able to fly more than 40,000 stranded passengers back to France since Monday.

The reopening of European airspace was certain to be accompanied by a potentially acrimonious debate about the indecision of governments in handling the crisis.
The European Commission said that a single authority should be allowed to override national sovereignty over airspace in the European Union to determine whether aircraft can fly safely through volcanic ash. There already are plans for an overarching authority to govern Europe’s “Single Sky” by 2012.

Call for compensation
Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the IATA, on Wednesday repeated industry calls for European governments and the European Union to find ways to compensate the industry for its losses during the ash crisis. He noted that the US government provided $5 billion to airlines after the attacks of 2001.
The New York Times

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