Airlines in the United Kingdom have begun the huge logistical task or repatriating international travellers following a decision by National Air Transport Services (NATS) to reopen British airspace.
Following new guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on restrictions to UK airspace, the air traffic control body removed flight limitations late on Tuesday night.
However, delays and cancellations remain commonplace as European airlines struggle to clear the backlog of passengers and luggage across the continent.
Virtually all UK airspace had been closed for six days as volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland drifted across Europe.
As many as 95,000 flights have been cancelled over the period, with as many as 150,000 British holidaymakers unable to secure travel home.
Eurocontrol – the European aviation body – said it expected 75 per cent of planned departures to go ahead today, totally around 22,000 flights.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated the crisis cost airlines a total of $1.7 billion in lost revenue over the past six days.
“At the worst, the crisis impacted 29 per cent of global aviation and affected 1.2 million passengers a day,” said IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani.
“The scale of the crisis eclipsed 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days.”
Health & Safety
The CAA had previously advised against all aviation activity amid volcanic ash, in line with international procedures. However, under intense pressure from airlines, the government body re-examined ash levels in which it is safe to fly.
The decision has left commentators questioning whether the decision to suspend air traffic was necessary.
“The major barrier to resuming flight has been understanding tolerance levels of aircraft to ash,” explained the CAA.
“Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas.”
Following the decision airport operator BAA said the situation was gradually returning to normal.
“BAA’s airports are open and ready for business, and are operating a limited number of flights today,” read a statement.
“It will take some time to return to normal operations as planes and crews are out of position.
“Until further notice, it remains important that passengers contact their airline before travelling to the airport.
“Not all flights will operate during the early period of opening, and we will do everything we can to support airlines and get people moving,” added BAA.
Take a look at the BAA website for the latest information.
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