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Ash Attack: Government and industry bodies reports

21-Apr-2010 11:07 AM

European Commission continues to coordinate meetings with national aviation authorities, air traffic control services, the airlines, airports and scientists and announced it is focusing on three main tasks:

  • Examining if stronger European coordination of airspace management can maximise the airspace available without compromising safety. Fragmentation caused by a patchwork of different national decisions is limiting available airspace.
  • Working to address the economic consequences of this crisis, to analyse the impact and to ensure that any measures taken across the EU to respond to economic consequences of this situation are properly coordinated.
  • Provide relief for passengers. [more]

European Commission recommended Member States apply special derogations to certain categories of travellers subject to the visa requirement for staying in or transiting through the territory of the Schengen States. In particular covering travellers with a short stay visa that has expired on or after 15-Apr-2010 and travellers who did not intend to enter into the area of the Member States but were forced to do so.[ more]

European Commissioner for Home Affairs: ''The new visa rules are being tested with this unprecedented disruption of air travel. Many foreigners visiting the EU are unable to return home to their countries and many of them are worried about their visas expiring: we can reassure them that they will not be considered as staying irregularly in the EU and will not need to request a visa extension. We can also reassure those who are forced to enter or to transit through EU territory that we will be completely flexible in order to help them return to their countries. I am glad that our common visa system is demonstrating proof of flexibility and efficiency," Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs. 20-Apr-2010.

European Union Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, stated state aid restrictions may be lifted or eased to allow Member Stated to minimise the economic impact of the disruption in airlines and the aviation industry in general (Bloomberg, 20-Apr-2010). European Commission stated it has received no requests for state aid from any European Member State (AFX, 20-Apr-2010). According to the EC, it is not yet possible for the airlines to properly assess the impact of the airspace closures.

EU Parliament Members applauded the decision to partially reopen European airspace. Parliament members raised the issues of the economic impact and raised the idea of EU budget aid for airlines, as well as the need to improve rail networks across Europe as an alternative means of transport. [more]

European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA), European Regions Airlines Association (ERA) and the International Air Carrier Association (IACA) called on the European Commission and European Member States to give a firm commitment to support airlines affected by the crisis caused by the volcanic ash dispersion. ELFAA, ERA and IACA proposed a series of operational and financial measures to the European Commission which they consider need to urgently be put in place to alleviate the financial pressure currently on airlines. [more]

IATA Director General & CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, state that more than five medium/small sized European airlines are in risk of bankruptcy because of a lack of cash reserves (AFP, 20-Apr-2010). Bisignani also confirmed he would request the European Union authorise Member States to reimburse carriers affected by the airspace closures.

Association of Asia Pacific Airlines stated flights to Europe account for approximately 15% of total passenger revenues for major Asia Pacific carriers, resulting in approximately USD40 million per day in lost revenues as a result of flight cancellations. More than 100,000 passengers due to travel between Europe and the Asia Pacific have been affected. Transport of 10,000 tonnes a day of high value, time-sensitive and perishable goods between Asia and Europe has also been affected. [more]

Association of Asia Pacific Airlines: “Asia Pacific airlines are already actively evaluating the re-establishment of services to Europe, contingent on the reopening of the relevant air routes. Once operations can be restored, airlines will be mounting additional flights to help clear the backlog of stranded passengers. Given the risk that access to some major European airports may remain restricted, some airlines are also seeking approval to operate into a number of alternative airports in Europe on a temporary basis,” Andrew Herdman, Director General. Source: Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, 19-Apr-2010.

Association of Corporate Travel Executives stated it has “guarded optimism” regarding the potential for resumption of air service throughout Europe (Travel Daily News, 20-Apr-2010).

British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) welcomed the reopening of UK airspace, but warned that there is "some way to go until there is any semblance of normality". BALPA stated the event has had a huge financial impact on an industry already struggling with the economic downturn and lessons need to be learned quickly to ensure disruption caused by fresh eruptions is minimised. It also called for the development of better systems for monitoring effects. [more]

Irish Government Taskforce on Emergency Planning stated the latest geological advice and information is that Icelandic volcanic activity has entered a phase of less ash being generated. Major Irish airports remained closed over most of 20-Apr-2010. [more]

German Chamber of Commerce estimated the cost of airspace disruptions to the German economy is approximately EUR1 billion per day (AFP, 21-Apr-2010);

Romanian Transport Ministry reported total losses in Romania to air transport industries could exceed EUR20 million due to three days of airspace closures. TAROM losses are expected to exceed EUR2.9 million, while other carriers are forecast to lose a combined EUR7 million. ROMATSA losses are calculated at EUR700,000. Romanian airport losses are expected to be approximately EUR7 million.

Russian Federal Air Transport Agency stated that 505 flights were cancelled and 92 more were delayed at Russian airports because of the volcanic eruption as at early on 20-Apr-2010 (PRIME-TASS, 19-Apr-2010).

South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs stated 88 passenger flights and 55 freight flights to/from Europe had been cancelled since Friday (Yonhap, 20-Apr-2010). Consequently, an estimated 4,060 tonnes of goods to be shipped by air were held up, and around 30,000 passengers were stranded.

Tourism Emergency Response Network (TERN) the unprecedented situation in Europe requires a joint coordinated effort from all stakeholders – governments and the private sector. It recommended that the following principles should be considered as general emergency priorities in situations such as the current European situation:

  • Foremost priority should be safety;
  • Travellers should be provided, as far as possible, with the required means to ensure their wellbeing;
    • Clear and precise information;
    • Assistance and support, whenever possible and in accordance with passengers’ rights;
    • Visa facilitation procedures when in transit and unable to leave airports.
  • Respective authorities are called on to provide to the sector all possible regulatory support. [more]

UAE GCAA held an emergency meeting with UAE airlines to evaluate the situation in Europe and agreed to form a working group to review the situation and take remedial actions proactively in interest of aviation safety. The working group will develop guidelines for the UAE airlines for operations in the affected areas by providing technical support for aircraft exposed to volcanic ash. It would also liaise with the authorities in Europe /US and aircraft engine manufacturers. [more]

US Air Transport Association reports approximately 270 airline flights have been cancelled as a result of the Icelandic volcanic activity, as of 1630 on 20-Apr-2010. US carriers typically operate 337 daily nonstop scheduled flights between the US and Europe. [more]

UK Airport Owners Association called for the UK to change its policy on the blanket closure of airspace, in line with the 19-Apr-2010 decision by EU ministers. [more]

UK Airport Owners Association:The cost of ongoing disruption for airlines and airports industry alone is GBP130 million a day. Add to that the cost to businesses dependent on flights to move goods and people and the effect on the wider economy is critical. The Government is also losing GBP5.5 million a day in Air Passenger Duty,” Ed Anderson Chairman. 20-Apr-2010.