Grounded airlines face $1,7bn ash cloud loss

AIRLINES around the world have lost more than US$1,7 billion due to the volcanic ash cloud, says industry body IATA.

The International Air Transport Association said at the
height of the disruption, airlines were losing around $400 million a day.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said: “Lost revenues now total more than US$1,7 billion for airlines alone.
“At the worst, the crisis impacted 29% of global aviation and affected 1,2 million passengers a day.
“The scale of the crisis eclipsed 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days.”
Some savings were made on fuel costs with airlines saving a combined total of $110 million a day due to grounded planes.
But airlines face added costs including the cost of looking after stranded passengers.
Bisignani 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.”
The group, which represents 230 airlines across the world, also called on governments to relax landing restrictions and provide compensation to help airlines pay for costs incurred in looking after passengers.
Bisignari said: “I am the first one to say that this industry does not want or need bailouts. But this crisis is not the result of running our business badly.
“It is an extraordinary situation exaggerated with a poor decision-making process by national governments. The airlines could not do business normally. Governments should help carriers recover the cost of this disruption,”
Meanwhile, Europe’s skies were opened for business on Wednesday, but with so many planes having been grounded by the pall of volcanic ash spreading from Iceland it could take days, or weeks, to clear the backlog.
Airlines, their flights to Europe and elsewhere idle for more than five days, counted the cost of the disruption.
Britain, a major air hub and a busy destination in its own right located squarely under the ash plume, reopened its airspace on Tuesday night, giving a boost to travellers and freight. British Airways said on its website it would operate all its long-haul flights departing from Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Wednesday.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority made clear that scientists and manufacturers had downgraded the risk of flying in areas of relatively low ash concentrations.
“The major barrier to resuming flight has been the tolerance levels of aircraft to ash. Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas,” CAA head Deidre Hutton said. –– BBC

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