The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has criticised European governments for their handling of the volcanic ash crisis.
"This volcano has crippled the aviation sector, first in Europe, and is now having worldwide implications.
“The scale of the economic impact is now greater than 9/11, when US airspace was closed for three days," said Giovanni Bisignani, head of IATA.
"We must move away from this blanket closure and find ways to flexibly open air space, step by step," he told a news briefing in Paris.
“Risk assessment should be able to help us reopen certain corridors, if not the entire airspace.
"We are far enough into this crisis to express our dissatisfaction at how governments have managed the crisis…It took five days to organise a conference call with the ministers of transport."
Mr Bisignani said: "This is a European embarrassment and it’s a European mess".
Mixed Results from Test Flights
Desperate to take to the skies once again and recoup heavy losses, many European airlines – including Air France and Lufthansa – have conducted test flights without apparent problems from the ash cloud.
However, safety concerns were renewed when a senior US official confirmed that build-up of glass was found in the engine of a Nato fighter plane which flew through the cloud.
The unprecedented airspace shutdown, which has now entered its sixth day, has cost the aviation industry over 200 million dollars per day.
The European Union said it was ready to authorise the same exceptional public aid that it had allowed for airlines in the wake of the September 11 attacks to prevent financial disaster.
The post-9/11 rules allowed for "state aid given because of exceptional events," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
Travellers finally come home
Airports in northern England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Belgium, France and Germany are slowly grinding back into action and will allow planes back into the air from this afternoon.
This morning three flights left Amsterdam airport bound for Shanghai, Dubai and New York and German flag carrier Lufthansa said it was "immediately" resuming flights on its long-haul routes after special permission from German authorities.
Scottish airspace re-opened at 7am, followed by Manchester Airport at 9am, the Midlands around midday and airports in the South from 6pm.
Three Royal Navy ships in Britain have also been sent to help transport holidaymakers home from France and Spain.
British Airways have also confirmed that they will be resuming a select number of flights to and from London from 7pm.
That means some of the estimated 150,000 Brits stranded abroad could finally start to make their way home.
But travel experts warned most airports would only operate a skeleton service and a “controlled re-opening.”
Qantas has extended its European flight cancellations into at least midday tomorrow and warned travel would remain difficult due to a backlog of flights.
The airline said that it would waive refund penalties for tickets issues prior to 17 April 2010.
It is estimated that one million passengers have been grounded globally, with 12,500 Qantas passengers stranded in various locations around the world.
ConTgo’s SMS services
ConTgo has seen unprecedented usage of its Mobile Travel Assistant (MTA) as a result of the flight chaos caused by the ongoing volcanic eruption in Iceland.
A record 35,000 messages were delivered last Friday, while more than 65,000 messages have been delivered during the last three days compared to the daily average of about 5,000 messages.
"Travel companies who provide the Mobile Travel Assistant to their travellers have been able to reduce some of the pressure caused by the sheer number of phone, internet and email enquiries they have received as a result of tens of thousands of flight cancellations," said CEO Johnny Thorsen.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.F