Ash fiasco now “worse than 9/11 attacks”

Ash fiasco now “worse than 9/11 attacks”

The head of the International Air Transport Association has slammed Europe’s governments for their handling of the volcanic ash crisis, which he said was costing the aviation industry $200 million a day in lost revenue.

As the no-fly ban enters its fifth day, Giovanni Bisignani said: “This is a European embarrassment and it’s a European mess”.

He said the scale of the crisis facing the airline industry is now greater than at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

“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 $200 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 organize a teleconference,” he said.

He urged a re-think of the decision-making process.

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“Europeans are still using a system based on a theoretical model which does not work… instead of using a system and taking decisions on facts and on risk assessment.”

“Governments must place greater urgency and focus on how and when we can safely re-open Europe’s skies. This means decisions based on risk-management, facts and utilizing operational procedures that maintain safety,” said Bisignani.

EU transport ministers are to hold emergency talks by video conference on the crisis.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said: “We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates.”

Flying bans remained in place across much of Europe, with air-safety organization Eurocontrol saying that only 30% of scheduled European flights were expected to take place.

Some smaller airports reopened, and European officials hoped that flights could return to about 50 percent of normal on Monday if the skies were clearing.

European and international agencies were in urgent talks to try to ease the chaos, UK
Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said. “We want to be able to resume flights as soon as possible, but safety remains my paramount concern,” he said.