Israeli planes resume some EU routes

Still no flights to London, Milan due to volcanic ash cloud.

April 21, 2010 00:06
2 minute read.
An El Al Boeing 767-200 (El Al)

el al 311. (photo credit: El Al)

Flights between Israel and Europe resumed partially on Tuesday, as airlines exploited the dispersal of the volcanic ash cloud that had covered the continent for six days and took to the air.

El Al resumed flights to and from Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Vienna, Marseilles and Budapest, but flights to London and Milan remained cancelled.

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Air France, Lufthansa and KLM also resumed flights to Ben-Gurion Airport.

But hopes for the complete renewal of normal flight schedules were dashed Tuesday as a fresh cloud of ash from the erupting volcano in Iceland made its way south over parts of the continent and the British Isles.

The UK’s air traffic control authority, the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), said on Tuesday afternoon that much of Britain would remain a no-fly zone until at least 1 a.m. Wednesday.

After a special evaluation meeting on Tuesday morning, El Al decided to renew its flights to London and Paris, scheduling special flights to ferry passengers who had been stranded there since Thursday, but later canceled its flights to London after the NATS announcement.

El Al said it would also return planes stuck in Vienna, Marseilles, Budapest and Bratislava, but was continuing to cancel flights to other destinations like Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Milan, Brussels, St. Petersburg and Warsaw. The airline has had to cancel some 200 flights in the last six days.

Arkia also renewed flights to French destinations and planned to send a flight to Munich on Wednesday.

According to Israel’s Aviation Authority, more than 300 flights in and out of Ben-Gurion have been canceled since the beginning of the crisis, affecting roughly 50,000 passengers.

Brussels-based Eurocontrol said some 14,000 of Europe’s 27,500 daily flights were expected to take place on Tuesday. The air traffic agency said it was optimistic the situation would be back to normal in a few days. It said that since last Thursday, more than 95,000 flights had been canceled.

Uncertainty, though, remains high as the volcano in Iceland continues to spout ash into the atmosphere at intervals. Passengers are urged to check with their airlines to confirm flight departures.

In an effort to try to take control of the situation, EU transportation ministers have divided the skies into three categories: a core no-fly area, a limited-service zone and an open-skies area.

The EU commissioner for transport, Siim Kallas, rejected criticism by airline executives and International Air Transport Association (IATA) officials that the EU took too long to respond to the crisis.

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Kallas said the matter was not “in the hands of arbitrary decisions,” as people’s lives were at stake.

The airline industry says its losses have soared to over $1 billion since much of Europe’s airspace was closed last week because of volcano ash.

The aviation crisis didn’t prevent El Al from participating in the Independence Day festivities. Four passenger jets flew in formation 1,000 feet above Israel’s coastline from Nahariya to Ashkelon as part of the annual aerial demonstration conducted by the IAF.

The formation was led by a Boeing 747-400 named Tel Aviv, in honor of the city’s centennial, followed by a Boeing 777 named Sderot, a 767 named Mishmar Ha’emek and a 737 named Kinneret.

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