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.

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea