The BBC reports that roughly 75 percent of regularly scheduled flights in Europe are set to operate today, as plume of ash from a volcano in Iceland finally seems to be subsiding. The U.K. reopened its airspace, finally alleviating the backlog at Heathrow. British Airways said it will operate most long-haul flights today, but warned that short-haul flights may still be cancelled.
Germany also reopened its airspace, and Air France said it will resume all long-haul flights.
But while that’s good news, there’s a long way to go before travelers and the travel industry are out of the woods.
First, airlines must deal with a backlog of travelers from the roughly 95,000 flights that were cancelled over the past few days. The BBC reports that many airlines have will put extra aircraft in service, but it will be a complicated juggling act as carriers try to transport currently ticketed passengers as well as travelers who have been stranded.
Then, there’s the small matter of lost revenue. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that, globally, airlines lost $1.7 billion due to the volcano disruption. The incident displaced roughly 1.2 million passengers per day. Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said, “The scale of the crisis eclipsed 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days.” The IATA called for airports and governments to ease certain rules, such as restrictions on night flights and airport slot allocations, so airlines can more easily cope with the situation.
Bisignani also suggested governments could provide financial assistance to affected airlines. The U.S. government handed out $5 billion following 9/11.
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