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Europe takes to air as ash fear clears

April 22, 2010 03:03 IST

Airlines across Europe resumed routine operations on Wednesday after a six-day lockdown due to ash from an Icelandic volcano. The industry recorded an estmated loss of $1.7 billion due to the closure of airports across the continent. For the three-day period between 17-19 April, when almost all flights were grounded, the industry lost revenues worth $400 million per day, IATA said.

"For an industry that lost $9.4 billion last year and was forecast to lose a further $2.8 billion in 2010, this crisis is devastating. It is hitting hardest where the carriers are in the most difficult financial situation. Europe's carriers were already expected to lose $2.2 billion this year--the largest in the industry," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

"As we are counting the costs of the crisis, we must also look for ways to mitigate the impact. Some of our airport partners are setting industry-best practice. London Heathrow and Dubai are waiving parking fees and not charging for repositioning flights. Others airports must follow," said Bisignani.

European navigation service provider Eurocontrol is expecting three-fourths of the flights ( approximately 21,000 flights) in Europe to operate today. The situation was at its worst last Sunday, when 84 per cent of the flights across Europe were cancelled, with no clear resolution in sight.

Despite the massive backlog in passenger numbers, to and out of Europe, the airports did not witness any chaos. An official at London's Heathrow airport said while it was crowded, the movement of passengers and aircrafts were managed remarkably well. All major European airlines including British Airways swung into action, to make up for the time and business lost over the last six days.

Since April 15, most airports in Europe and UK were shut as a volcano in southern Iceland erupted, spewing a massive quantity of ash into the European skies. The risk of losing engine power while flying into ash clouds prompted navigation authorities across the continent to ban flights.

British Airways said it has 45 flights a week scheduled from India to London's Heathrow -- two flights daily from Delhi and Mumbai, one from Bangalore, six from Hyderabad and five from Chennai. "Except one flight from Mumbai today, the rest will be on schedule," a BA spokesperson in India said.

Flight navigation agency NATS said most of UK's airspace was available, with the exception of an area over the north west of Scotland that continues to be affected by a dense concentration of volcanic ash.

S Kalyana Ramanathan in London
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