The International Air Transport Association [IATA] has urged governments to rethink decisions to close large swathes of European airspace because of the Icelandic volcano’s ash cloud.
Diego Lopez Garrido, the Spanish secretary of state for European affairs, said half of the flights planned in Europe could take place on Monday.
“We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction on how governments have managed it, with no risk assessment, no consultation and no leadership,” said Giovanni Bisignani, the IATA director general and chief executive. “This crisis is costing airlines at least $200 million a day in lost revenues and the European economy has already suffered billions of dollars in lost business.
Wolfgang Weber, a Lufthansa spokesman, said the airline flew 10 empty long-haul planes to Frankfurt from Munich at low altitude levels between 3,000 and 8,000 metres on Saturday.
Singapore Airlines also canceled all its flights to Europe, except those to Athens and Istanbul. Europe had grounded most flights for a fourth day on Sunday because of the ash cloud from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano on April 14. Increasingly desperate airlines — among them Air France, Lufthansa, KLM and Air Berlin — ran test flights over the weekend to show that flying was safe, and they pressed aviation authorities to loosen the flight ban.
Volcanic ash is abrasive and can strip off aerodynamic surfaces and paralyse an aircraft engine. Aircraft electronics and windshields can also be damaged.
“It is clear that this is not sustainable,” the European Union’s transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, told reporters in Brussels. “We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates.”