News / Europe

Airlines Struggle to Clear Passenger Backlog Caused by Volcano

Europe has re-opened most of its airspace, as airlines struggle to clear a massive backlog of passengers stranded since last week when volcanic ash brought air traffic on the continent to a standstill.

Europe's air traffic control agency, Eurocontrol, says it expected to operate at least 28,000 flights Thursday.

However, some disruptions continued - most of them briefly - in northern Europe as shifting winds sent a new wave of ash over parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and northern Scotland.

Thousands of passengers who had been stuck in airports and hotels Wednesday were crammed onto flights as airlines tried to expand capacity.  Eurocontrol said the volcanic ash from Iceland caused about 95,000 flight cancellations in the past week.

The International Air Transport Association called the cancellations "devastating," saying they cost the airline industry almost $2 billion.

The group's chief, Giovanni Bisignani, urged governments to look at ways to compensate airlines for their losses.

Two major European travel agencies - Thomas Cook and TUI - criticized the British government for shutting down its airspace.

But Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said the main barrier to resuming flights had been determining how much ash aircraft could tolerate.  Scientists said flying thorough volcanic ash could cause jet engines to stop in mid-flight.

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

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