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Governments & Industry Bodies

21-Apr-2010 11:59 AM

European Commission stated that the disjointed national response to the volcanic ash cloud airspace closures has created greater impetus for the push for the Single European Sky programme and the establishment of a European Network Manager to coordinate airspace (Reuters, 21-Apr-2010). The Commission is now targeting an agreement on a mandate for the European Network Manager by the end of the year. EU Transport Commissioner, Siim Kallas, stated earlier in the week that fragmentation caused by a patchwork of different national decisions was limiting available airspace. He called for a European approach to deal with the crisis. Association of European Airlines Secretary General, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, stated the incident clearly shows the need for completion of the European single sky.

ICAO announced the formation of a group to establish a global safety risk framework for routinely determining safe levels of operation in airspace contaminated by volcanic ash. ICAO convened a special meeting of its governing council to discuss ash standards.

IATA estimated that the Icelandic volcano crisis cost airlines more than USD1.7 billion in lost revenue through to 20-Apr-2010 - six days after the initial eruption.For a three-day period (17-19-Apr-2010), when disruptions were greatest, lost revenues reached USD400 million per day. IATA also noted some cost savings related to the flight groundings. Fuel costs were USD110 million a day less compared to normal, but faced added costs including from passenger care.

IATA Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, urged governments to examine ways to compensate airlines for lost revenue and made three specific requests for regulatory relief:

  • Relax airport slot rules: IATA urged that rules on take-off and landing slot allocation (use it or lose it) be relaxed;
  • Lift restrictions on night flights: Relax bans on night flights so carriers can take every opportunity to get stranded passengers back home as soon as possible.
  • Address unfair passenger care regulations: IATA stated European passenger regulations were never meant for such extra-ordinary situations and still hold airlines responsible for an act of God situation. IATA stated it is urgent that the European Commission finds a way to "ease this unfair burden”. [more]

IATA: “At the worst, the crisis impacted 29% of global aviation and affected 1.2 million passengers a day. The scale of the crisis eclipsed 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days. For an industry that lost USD9.4 billion last year and was forecast to lose a further USD2.8 billion in 2010, this crisis is devastating. It is hitting hardest where the carriers are in the most difficult financial situation. Europe’s carriers were already expected to lose USD2.2 billion this year—the largest in the industry,” Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO. Source: IATA, 21-Apr-2010.

ACI EUROPE estimated 9.5 million air passengers were unable to travel due to airspace closures between 15/20-Apr-2010. ACI EUROPE revised its estimate of direct losses to the airport sector to EUR250 million. Director General, Olivier Jankovec, called for the formation of an European Aviation Relief Plan, stating any cost savings during the disruption have been minimal for Europe’s airports and were eliminated by the extra cost of providing assistance to passengers. [more]

ACI EUROPE: “These past 6 days have unequivocally shown that Europe is in dire need of a fully functioning Single European Sky and that the lack of it can lead to paralysis, with dramatic consequences. But it is not just about the need for a Single European Sky. The embattled state of our industry now calls for a European Aviation Relief Plan. We are presently discussing this with the European Commission and it is clear from the losses sustained by Europe’s airports that they must be part of any compensation measures,” Olivier Jankovec, Director General. Source: ACI EUROPE, 21-Apr-2010.

Airbus welcomed a united industry position on acceptable tolerance levels for flight operations in the current environment agreed to on 20-Apr-2010 and the reopening of European airspace, allowing flights to be conducted in safe conditions. Industry-wide discussions led to a common evaluation of data and an agreed definition of acceptable tolerance levels. Airbus conducted test flights with an A380 and an A340 in French and German airspace and found no irregularities. [more]

Airport Operators Association stated UK airports are open and ready for flights, following the reopening of UK airspace at 2200 UK on 20-Apr-2010. [more]

Civil Aviation Authority - Norway approved new stringent technical aircraft inspection routines for detecting volcanic ash on 20-Apr-2010. [more]

KPMG commented that the high fixed cost nature of the airline industry means that significant decreases in revenue as experienced by carriers due to the volcanic eruption have an immediate impact on financial viability, especially cash flow. The company also commented that events such as this give greater impetus to the arguments for cross-border mergers. [more]

KPMG: "This event is another reason why national airlines should be allowed to merge cross border. A truly global airline with a global footprint would be better positioned to absorb the revenue impact of a regional nature, because the revenue impact is spread across a wider cost base," Dr Ashley Steel, Global Chair for Transport and Infrastructure. Source: KPMG, 21-Apr-2010.

Iceland Meteorological Office stated the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull entered a new phase of 21-Apr-2010, with the volcanic ash plume subsiding and diminishing.

UK Transport Minister, Lord Adonis, stated international regulators were “probably overcautious” in their decisions on the closure of European airspace (BBC Radio 2, 21-Apr-2010). UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, defended the decisions to shut UK airspace on safety grounds (Telegraph.co.uk, 21-Apr-2010).

UK Government: ''To get the right scientific advice. You have got to make sure that people are safe and secure. We would never be forgiven if we had let planes fly and there was a real danger to people's lives.'' Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister. Source: Telegraph.co.uk, 21-Apr-2010.

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated no significant amounts of ash are forecast to reach the US, and US air traffic will be unaffected (AP, 21-Apr-2010).

Safran announced its technical experts are participating in current deliberations by government authorities (DGAC in France, Civil Aviation Authority in the UK) regarding aircraft engines and the effect of volcanic ash particles in the atmosphere. [more]

Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), representing over 90 airlines, called (21-Apr-2010) on the UK Government to "tackle the EU Commission over unfair EU Regulations against member state airlines". BAR UK called for an "urgent reassessment" of the implementation of the Regulation, adding, "not to change anything would be a huge disservice to everybody". [more]

BAR UK: “The eagerness of the EU and the UK government to publicly state that airlines have a responsibility under EU Regulation EU261/2004, to accommodate and feed passengers booked on flights cancelled by the volcanic disruptions, is a misuse of the regulation. Regulation EU261/2004 was intended to apply when airlines had individual delays or cancelled flights. It was never intended to apply to wholesale shutdown of the airways system imposed by governmental rulings and without any limitation of time. It is also relevant that airlines cannot immediately resume normal services from the moment that the airspace restrictions are lifted. This Regulation, when used in this way, is draconian, disproportionate and often impractical. In this particular situation, passengers have in all probability been delayed a lot longer than they might have been and airlines have lost millions every day as a result,” Mike Carrivick, CEO. Source: Company Statement, 21-Apr-2010.

Travelport President & CEO Jeff Clarke renewed his calls for the development of a US-EU Task Force on Global Emergency Communications. The initial impetus for Travelport's recommendation was the Spring 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, but the confusion over travel and trade advisories and bans brought about by the spread of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe "emphasises the need for an official mechanism to coordinate crisis communications and decision-making", in the company's opinion. [more]

Travelport: "In times of global crisis, it is imperative that government decisions on travel and trade be made with all pertinent information at hand. It's clear that is not happening in any kind of coordinated fashion right now. I strongly urge the US and EU governments to come together and establish this Global Emergency Communications Task Force," President & CEO, Jeff Clarke. Source: Travelport: 21-Apr-2010.

US Travel Association stated the airspace closures cost the US economy USD650 million in direct spending. US Travel Association estimates carriers between Europe and the US have seen about 78% of their flights cancelled over the period. [more]

US Travel Association: "Given the results of test flights in recent days, European leaders have appropriately questioned the process that led to broad restrictions on air travel before clear evidence was available to indicate they were necessary. While safety must always be the primary consideration, economies, particularly those recovering from recession, cannot afford an overreaction that stifles travel completely," Roger Dow, President & CEO. Source: Company statement, 20-Apr-2010.