EU ministers convene on flights crisis

Iceland volcano ash causes 'biggest aviation disruption in history'.

April 18, 2010 19:57
1 minute read.
Passengers from Europe sleep as their flights for

Stranded passangers iceland volcano 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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EU transport ministers have been called to a video conference on Monday to discuss what is termed by some aviation experts the greatest interruption of airline services ever, causing the cancellation of more than 17,000 flights and affecting millions of passengers, among them 40,000 travelers to or from Israel on 243 flights.

Spain, currently holding the rotating EU presidency called the council of transport ministers, in light of the Iceland volcanic ash plume engulfing European skies beginning to thin out.

The financial costs of the crisis to Airlines is estimated at $200 million a day, $20 million a week for El Al alone.

Sunday marked the fourth day that flights across most of Europe were halted. Spain's skies have been opened and El Al announced Sunday the possible resumption of flights to Bucharest, Kiev, Sofia, Munich, Berlin, Budapest, Barcelona, Milan, Warsaw and Marseilles. In addition, El Al continued to increase the frequency of its flights to Rome, Madrid and Athens with the goal of returning as many Israelis as possible home in time for Independence Day on Tuesday, and advised passengers to check the status of their flight on the internet before leaving for the Airport.

However, most of the airspace above the European continent remained closed for commercial aviation on Sunday.

The European flight control center reported that only 6,000 flights operated on Saturday, in comparison with 22,000 on a normal day. Passengers across Europe frantically tried to find alternative means of transportation, causing traffic jams on roads and slowdowns in railway

Hotel services in Israel began assisting hundreds of foreign tourists stranded in the country without Europe-bound flights.

Nevertheless, the crisis seems to be receding due to a weakening of ash coverage, while KLM and Air France reported successful test flights through the ash cloud, and announced the opening of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Marseilles airports. Germany stated it intended to open six Airports to easterly flights only: Tegel, Schoenefeld, Erfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Hanover. Poland also announced a partial opening of its skies to flights.

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