Iceland's Volcano Grounds Hundreds Of Flights In Europe, Airlines Complain

May 24, 2011
Originally published on May 24, 2011 9:44 am

The International Air Transport Association says British air traffic regulators are overreacting to the cloud of ash drifting from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano over Scotland, Britain and now moving toward Scandinavia. Several airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights, such as British Airways, Air France and KLM, according to the Guardian.

The British weather agency has declared a temporary danger area over Scotland, and the Washington Post says thousands of passengers are affected. Carriers have more flexibility on whether to fly, according to Dow Jones. Last year, the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano prompted European aviation authorities to order the largest shutdown of airspace since the second world war.

The carriers are losing passengers, paying costs and they don't like it. So Ryanair, the low cost Irish air carrier, today sent a plane into Scottish airspace where the ash cloud is thickest and flew one of the standard air routes for an hour. When the plane returned:

There was no visible volcanic ash cloud or any other presence of volcanic ash and the post flight inspection revealed no evidence of volcanic ash on the airframe, wings or engines. The absence of any volcanic ash in the atmosphere supports Ryanair's stated view that there is no safety threat to aircraft in this mythical "red zone" which is another misguided invention by the UK Met Office and the CAA.

But wait - Britain's Civil Aviation Authority isn't buying it. In fact, the BBC reports the CAA says the Ryanair plane never flew that route:

"The CAA can confirm that at no time did a Ryanair flight enter the notified area of high contamination ash over Scotland this morning."

The BBC quotes Ryanair as saying this is a case of 'bureaucrats covering themselves'.

The air carriers have money riding on this. AFP notes airline stock prices dropped yesterday: Lufthansa was down more than four percent, Air France-KLM stock was down nearly four percent and the parent company of British Airways fell 3.68 percent.

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