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Airline Group Slams Europe's Handling of Volcanic Ash Crisis

A leading airline association is calling on European aviation authorities to revise airspace rules to minimize flight disruptions from an active volcano in Iceland.

The International Air Transport Association said Tuesday the current system of grounding flights to avoid jet engine damage from volcanic ash has led to unnecessary airspace closures. An IATA statement also said airlines have lost faith in European governments to make effective and consistent airspace closure decisions.

Huge ash clouds from the Icelandic volcano forced continent-wide airspace closures in April that stranded millions of passengers for nearly a week and cost the airlines nearly $2 billion in lost revenues. A second ash plume from the island forced the cancelation of 1,000 flights Monday.

IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani welcomed French success in keeping its airspace open safely by using aviation expertise rather than computer models to evaluate danger.

Bisignani said the ash problem is not going away anytime soon. He also welcomed Britain's decision to set ash tolerance levels for commercial aircraft more precisely. Under new British regulations, flights are permitted in thicker ash than previously allowed, but for limited periods of time.

The IATA represents more than 200 airlines across the world.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.