Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Half of scheduled air traffic take wings

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London April 21, 2010

Europe’s flight navigation agency Eurocontrol said it expects 14,000 flights — almost half of the scheduled air traffic — to operate in the European airspace today.

For thousands of passengers stranded across Europe, this was the most encouraging news since ash clouds from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) volcano hovered across the skies, disrupting flights across Europe and other parts of the world. However, the problem is far from over.

According to Eurocontrol sources, more than 95,000 flights have been cancelled since Thursday, 15 April.

The UK’s flight navigation agency NATS in its statement said part of the Scottish and Northern Irish airspace, including Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh airports, will continue to be available from 1900 today to 0100 tomorrow. The Newcastle Airport, Glasgow and Teesside airports will also be available in this time period.

However restrictions will remain in place over the rest of the UK airspace below 20,000ft. “Flights operating above the ash cloud are now permitted in the UK; between 1900 today and 0100 tomorrow, this will enable aircraft movements above 20,000ft in UK airspace,” NATS said.

British Airways, however, said it will aim to resume some flights into and out of London’s airports from 7pm on Tuesday, April 20 following the proposed reopening of the UK and European airspace by aviation authorities. BA said it has more than 80 aircraft and almost 3,000 cabin crew and pilots out of position, overseas, across its global network.

Airlines across Europe, including German carrier Lufthansa, Dutch airline KLM and the UK’s British Airways, have taken a severe financial blow on account of this six-day struggle to get their flights back in the air.

Airline companies, under the industry body IATA has expressed their displeasure about the manner in which navigation authorities in Europe dealt with the situation. Airlines that carried out their own test flights said several windows of flying opportunities had been missed over the last few days due to excessive caution shown by navigation service providers across Europe. IATA had claimed that its members were losing $200 million in revenues every day since this problem started.

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