European airlines question flight bans

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Some of Europe's airlines and airports have called into question whether the mass restrictions imposed on the continent's airspace, due to volcanic ash in the area, are necessary.

Millions of travellers have been stranded by the cancellations; however, some airlines have made test flights to see if there were any immediate effects on jets after flying through ash. Authorities fear that the ash can cause vital aircraft parts, such as the engines, to fail in-flight.

Three large airlines — KLM, Air France, and Lufthansa — have already made test flights. Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, the head of the Association of European Airlines (AEA), commented: "Verification flights undertaken by several of our airlines have revealed no irregularities at all; this confirms our requirement that other options should be deployed to determine genuine risk."

KLM, meanwhile, said that it will allow three freight planes to make flights to Asia, and had transferred seven passenger planes from Duesseldorf, Germany to Amsterdam, without any travellers.

Do you agree with the aviation authorities' move, or do you think it was too cautious?

"We observed no irregularities either during the flight or during the initial inspection on the ground. We hope to receive permission as soon as possible after that to start up our operation and to transport our passengers to their destinations." said KLM chief executive Peter Hartman.

ACI Europe and the AEA also commented about the issue in a statement: "While Europe's airlines and airports consider safety to be an absolute priority, they are questioning the proportionality of the flight restrictions currently imposed." "Airlines must be able to fly where it is safe to fly and make decisions accordingly. It is what our passengers demand of us."

Airport closures and cancellations are estimated to be costing airlines about US$200 million daily, the International Air Transport Association reports.

The operations control head for Eurocontrol, Brian Flynn, rebuffed notions that aviation officials were being too cautious, describing the issue as an "unknown phenomenon". "With the over-riding objective of protecting the travelling public, these exceptional measures have to be taken," he remarked. "[...] As soon as we are able to, with confidence, and when I say we, I mean the entire community of aviation experts [and] aviation authorities, are able to declare parts of the air space and airports open that will be done."

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons has media about Eyjafjöll 2010 eruption.