Recriminations fly after aerial lockdown ends

Recriminations flew after Europe's aerial lockdown ended as a budget airline was forced into a U-turn on compensation for passengers Thursday and the industry demanded governments share the bill.

Iceland's Eyjafjjoell volcano, which paralysed the skies above Europe for nearly a week, continued erupting, prompting several small airports in Sweden and Norway to close to passengers.

But all the continent's major air hubs were up and running again at close to full capacity with airlines struggling to clear a huge backlog of passengers.

According to Eurocontrol, the body coordinating air traffic control across the continent, 28,500 flights should take to the skies on Thursday, saying it was the average for a normal day.

Hundreds of thousands of travellers were left stranded across the globe by the shutdown which began last Thursday, having to shell out for hotels, food and alternative travel arrangements.

The chief executive of Ireland's low-cost carrier Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, initially said he would only refund the cost of tickets bought by stranded customers but the airline later agreed to pay for food and accommodation expenses incurred by travellers after an outcry.

"Ryanair confirmed this morning that it will comply with EU261 regulations under which EU airlines are required to reimburse the reasonable receipted expenses (as set out in EU261) of disrupted passengers," the airline said.

It emphasised that the EU regulation did not entitle passengers to compensation for their ordeal, sparked by a cloud of ash from the volcano which grounded flights across Europe for almost a week.

In the statement, O'Leary said that Ryanair would continue its efforts to change "absurd" EU legislation so reimbursements were "limited to the ticket price paid in the same way they are for train, coach and ferry operators".

On Wednesday, O'Leary said the EU legislation was not designed to cover a week of expenses for passengers who had paid just 20 or 30 euros for their flights, saying: "We will not be meeting those bills" for food or hotels.

Norman Baker, transport spokesman for Britain's opposition Liberal Democrats, then accused O'Leary was rubbing "salt into the wounds for those who have been stranded overseas" while the EU Commission warned that airlines must scrupulously honour passengers' rights.

Airlines, many already in difficulties during the downturn, want governments to pick up part of the bill after haemmorhaging money during the crisis.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put the overall cost to the airline industry at 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros)

"For an industry that lost 9.4 billion dollars last year and was forecast to lose a further 2.8 billion dollars in 2010, this crisis is devastating," said IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani in Berlin.

"Airspace was being closed based on theoretical models, not on facts."

But as the recriminations flew, one vulcanologist advising the United Nations said the authorities had had no choice but to close their airspace because of the lack of hard facts about aircraft behaviour in volcanic ash.

"There is at the moment no reliable data on the exact concentration of ash in the atmosphere and when an aircraft can fly, or not, through such plumes," said Henry Gaudru, president of the European Vulcanological Society.

Because of this lack of knowledge, closure to air traffic "was the only measure that could be taken," he argued.

Iceland's civil protection authority said that Eyjafjjoell volcano was still erupting on Thursday morning, but was largely stable from the day before.

"The plume remains low and the tremors haven't increased," said a spokeswoman.

Normal timetables were resuming at most airports.

Activity at the main airport in Paris was "back to normal" but London Heathrow said it would "take some time" before the complete resumption of normal services.

It was also business as usual at German airports, with only a handful of cancellations were reported at Frankfurt airport, the country's largest.

Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers, said it would operate at its full daily capacity of 1,800 flights.

 

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Life and Style
Meow! ... Again, Kim Kardashian goes for a sexy Halloween costume, wrapping her body with a latex catsuit and high heeled knee boots
fashionFrom Heidi Klum to Kim Kardashian
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
Life and Style
tech

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker