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EU: Half of flights may run Monday

Published:Monday | April 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Volcanic ash has thrown global travel into chaos, but if weather forecasts confirm the skies over Europe are clearing, air traffic over the continent could return to about 50 per cent of normal levels today, the European Union (EU) said.

The prospects for a return to normal air travel remained far from clear, however.

Several major airlines safely tested the skies with weekend flights that did not carry passengers. Germany temporarily loosened some airspace restrictions before the EU announcement Sunday evening, allowing limited operations from some of its largest airports before closing them again Sunday evening.

Other countries enforced closures on their national airspace through late Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday as meteorologists warned that the airborne ash was still unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

The shutdowns imposed after an Icelandic volcano began erupting last Wednesday have stranded millions of travellers. They are costing the aviation industry, already reeling from a punishing economic period, at least US$200 million a day, according to the International Air Transport Association.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters in Brussels: "It is clear that this is not sustainable. We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates."

Diego Lopez Garrido, state secretary for EU affairs for Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that "now it is necessary to adopt a European approach" instead of a patchwork of national closures and openings.

"Probably tomorrow one half of EU territory will be influenced. This means that half of the flights may be operating," Lopez Garrido said about conditions today.