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EU Plans Relief for Airline Industry Grounded by Volcano

  • Lisa Bryant

The European Union has proposed a series of measures to help the region's ailing airline industry, hard hit by last week's volcanic ash cloud that paralyzed air transport in Europe.

European Union Transportation Commissioner Siim Kallas says the crippling effects of the volcanic ash cloud cost European airlines as much as $3.3 billion. The cloud caused hundreds of flights to be canceled, stranding thousands of passengers all over the world.

At a press conference in Brussels, Kallas outlined a series of proposed measures by the European Commission to help offset the heavy costs incurred by Europe's airline industry, including allowing governments to waive restrictions on night flights and defer charges airlines pay to air-traffic controllers.

"The Commission considered that exceptional circumstances of recent days may justify support measures to offset losses incurred. Any support granted by member states must respect a level playing field," Kallas said.

Mr. Kallas also called for European crisis planning to help ease transportation bottlenecks by allowing another type of transport to replace one hard hit during times of crisis. And he said it is critical to fast track what is known as the "single sky" system - an effort to put the hodgepodge of European airspaces under one control.

"Stronger European coordination will not solve every problem. But faced with such a pan-European crisis, it would have enabled a much more agile response," Kallas said.

Airlines are hoping European transportation commissioners will sign off on the proposed measures when they meet on May 4.