Icelandic volcanic ash cloud

Travel industry counts the cost of Icelandic ash cloud disruption

Photo: Reuters

Around 63,000 flights have been cancelled in Europe since Thursday because of a gigantic Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, Europe’s air traffic agency said on Sunday. German carrier Lufthansa, Air France and an Italian aviation authority plane all carried out flight tests to determine the affect on aircraft, amid increasing criticism of government action to close airspace.


Estimates indicate that airlines are losing more than 150 million euros a day due to flight restrictions, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation said the ash plume had created more disruption than the flight restrictions imposed following the 9/11 attacks, according to the AFP news agency.

EU transport ministers are expected to hold a special videoconference on Monday, following a meeting of Eurocontrol, the organisation in charge of European air safety.

Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco said Spanish airports could be used as an intercontinental platform so that passengers could reach other European destinations by road or rail. 17 airports in northern and eastern Spain, including Barcelona, reopened on Sunday.

The crisis is thought to have cost the European travel industry more than 1.2 billion euros in cancelled flights, lost hotel suites and empty cruise ships.

In France, most airports including Charles de Gaulle and Orly will remain closed until Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Sunday.

“Weather conditions indicate that the situation will still be difficult for several days,” he told reporters.

But he did say that airports in the south, such as Biarritz, would be used to re-route flights.

Meteorologists in Switzerland have begun detecting ash on the ground. Bertrand Calpini from the Payerne weather station told ATS, the Swiss news agency, that the ash cloud is “passing and starting to dilute”.

But as the ash cloud continued to have repercussions in Europe and the rest of the world, there were some people profiting from the mass closure of airports and airspace.

Small plane fanatics in Zurich were allowed to use the runway without landing charges, and around 120 Cessnas, Mooneys and Pipers (planes not requiring instruments) spent Saturday enjoying the spring weather, flying in and out of Zurich airport.

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