20-Apr-2010 11:47 AM

Government and industry body updates

EU Transport Ministers announced (19-Apr-2010) a plan to ease airspace and air traffic restrictions from 06:00 GMT on 20-Apr-2010 based on ash proliferation assessments. The plan provides for three different zones, which will be regularly determined by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London and EUROCONTROL, depending on their degree of contamination.

  • Zone One: Located in the nucleus of the volcanic emissions. Full restriction of operations will apply;
  • Zone Two: Some amounts of ash present. Air traffic operations not restricted in principle. Zone will need to be confirmed and the decisions about the operations will be taken in a coordinated manner by the authorities of the member states;
  • Zone Three: Unaffected by ash. No restrictions of any type to operations.

EU Transport Commission: "From tomorrow morning we should see more planes flying," Siim Kallas, EU Transport Commissioner. Source: Reuters, 19-Apr-2010.

European Commission competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, stated the EU was prepared to authorise exceptional financial aid to airlines affected by the closure of airspace (Reuters, 19-Apr-2010). Commissioner Almunia added the EU is ready to consider adopting the framework it adopted after September 11, when exceptional aid was permitted to companies affected.

European Union: "If member states would decide to help with state aid and provided conditions for receiving state aid were not discriminatory, we are ready to think in a similar framework after September 11”, Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. Source: Reuters, 19-Apr-2010.

German Transport Ministry is moving to normalise flight operations on a "step by step" basis.

German Transport Ministry: "On a national and European level, we have decided to move step by step toward a normalisation, within the framework of strict security requirements. On a national level, airlines can submit an application which allows, through a pragmatic and secure solution, the return transport of passengers stranded abroad. We can allow limited traffic to Germany ... 10 airlines have so far submitted such an application, for a so-called controlled, visual flight," Peter Ramsauer, Transport Minister. Source: Reuters, 19-Apr-2010.

German Economic Ministry called a meeting of German industrial representatives to discuss strategies to minimise further damage to the economy from the air travel disruption (AP, 19-Apr-2010).

Germany Economic Ministry: "If chains of economic value are disrupted for a long time in a globalised world, we would have a serious situation, because many of our industrial sectors depend on transport by air," Rainer Bruederle, Economy Minister. Source: AP, 19-Apr-2010.

Spanish Transport Minister, Jose Blanco, stated the EU does not agree with the criticism made by airlines over European airspace closures (AFP, 20-Apr-2010).

UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, stated European funds should be made available to compensate airlines and associated companies due to losses related to the airspace closures in Europe (Business World, 20-Apr-2010).

UK Government: "I believe that this is one of the most serious transport disruptions that we have faced. It's got financial consequences as well as human consequences and we will do everything in our power to make sure all the arrangements are in place to help people where possible to get back home," Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister. Source: Business World, 20-Apr-2010.

Dutch Transport Minister stated day-time passenger flights will be allowed to operate from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport from Monday evening, as part of the EU's decision to start reopening European airspace (Reuters, 19-Apr-2010).

Dutch Government: “We are taking the lead on this. But from tomorrow there will also be lots of other airports that will start allowing flights”, Camiel Eurlings, Transport Minister. Source: Reuters, 19-Apr-2010.

IATA sharply criticised (19-Apr-2010) European governments for their "lack of leadership" in handling airspace restrictions in light of the eruption and urged a rethink of the decision-making process. IATA criticised Europe’s unique methodology of closing airspace based on theoretical modelling of the ash cloud. IATA urged EUROCONTROL to establish a volcano contingency centre capable of making coordinated decisions. IATA also called for an urgent meeting of ICAO to define government responsibility for the decisions to open or close airspace in a coordinated and effective way based on real data and special operating procedures. [more] IATA stated that the scale of the impact of the airspace closure is larger than the three-day airspace closure in the US following the September 11 attacks (Reuters, 20-Apr-2010).

IATA: “We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction on how governments have managed it-with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership. This crisis is costing airlines at least USD200 million a day in lost revenues and the European economy is suffering billions of dollars in lost business. In the face of such dire economic consequences, it is incredible that Europe’s transport ministers have taken five days to organise a teleconference ... It has been the air navigation service providers who announced that they would not provide service. And these decisions have been taken without adequately consulting the airlines. This is not an acceptable system particularly when the consequences for safety and the economy are so large,” Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO. Source: IATA, 19-Apr-2010.

IATA: "This volcano has crippled the aviation sector, firstly in Europe and is now having worldwide implications. The scale of the economic impact (on aviation) is now greater than 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days. We must move away from this blanket closure and find ways to flexibly open air space, step by step," Giovanni Bisignani, Director General & CEO. Source: Reuters, 20-Apr-2010.

ACI EUROPE and the Association of European Airlines issued (19-Apr-2010) a joint statement, following a decision taken by European Transport Ministers to reopen Europe’s airspace on 20-Apr-2010 at 06:00 GMT. Europe’s airlines and airports said that the revised restrictions permit the resumption of air services without endangering the safety of operations, noting close to 40 non-commercial flights had been undertaken by European airlines in the past days, "which revealed no indications of anomalies or irregularities, thus enabling a more detailed analysis of the situation". [more]

ACI EUROPE and AEA: “We commend the ministers and the European institutions for their approach of maintaining safety whilst ensuring that European mobility is no longer compromised. Today’s decision has paved the way for the resolution of what remains the worst disruption to European aviation since World War II. The situation now calls for a full assessment of the financial impact on the aviation industry at large, with an adequate support response at European level", Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, Secretary General of AEA and Olivier Jankovec, Director General ACI EUROPE, 19-Apr-2010.

Association of European Airlines stated its members faced accumulated losses of EUR625 million over the past five days and there are a number of airlines that were “clinging on with their fingernails” after 18 months of downturn (AP, 20-Apr-2010).

Association of European Airlines: "There are probably 100 to 150 airlines in Europe, some large, some small, some tiny, and some which are not going to be around in a week or two's time, that's for sure. At any given time, and particularly at the end of 18 really really tough months, there are a number of airlines which are clinging on with their fingernails. A five-day, 10-day suspension of service is not going to be sustainable for them," David Henderson, Manager of Information. Source: AP, 20-Apr-2010.

International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations cautioned it would be better to ground aircraft traffic until more data is collected by authorities and engine manufacturers to determine the safety of operations (Wall Street Journal, 19-Apr-2010).

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