News / Europe

Icelandic Volcano Impacts Economy, Industry, Environment

David Byrd

Millions of passengers have been stranded after a huge ash cloud spread from an Icelandic volcano toward Europe since Wednesday, April 14.  Volcanic ash presents a particular challenge not only to airline passengers, but also to the travel industry, and the countries affected by the plume.

Air traffic controllers in Europe canceled more than 16,000 flights Friday because of the huge plume of ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. The cloud drifted toward Europe and is predicted to cover as far north as northern Italy, Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Switzerland.

The canceled flights are costing the airlines an estimated $200 million per day, and passengers are stranded at major airports including Frankfurt, London, and Rome.

Bill Miller is a Senior Vice President with CheapOair travel company, and he told VOA that the $200 million is a conservative estimate and the impact could be felt industry wide.

"Certainly at Heathrow British Airways has a very large presence, as do a lot of North-American based carriers.  And in Frankfurt you've got Lufthansa that has a massive operation there. Europe is unique in that they have a lot of low-cost carriers. You've got Easy Jet operating out of Luton airport in London.  Some other low-cost carriers throughout Europe. You know, there's like 30,000 flights a day in Europe and I believe about half of them have been canceled as of today," he said.

The ash cloud even trapped Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was stuck in New York after his flight home was canceled.  Mr. Stoltenberg used his Apple iPad electronic device to run his government while he made his way home.  

The difficulty with volcanic ash is that it is more like small particles of glass rather than the ash left over from a fire.  The pumice and other minerals can severely damage aircraft engines, control surfaces and navigation equipment.  

Bill Burton is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey based outside Washington.  He told VOA that volcanic ash is uniquely destructive to aircraft. "It's like sandblasting your aircraft if you fly in the middle of it.  So millions of tiny hard pieces are flying into your jet engine.  And they are abrading the engine and any forward facing surfaces including windshields. The silica in the ash can also melt and then re-solidify within the engine so you can actually coat  the parts of your jet engine.  And all of those things can be disastrous," he said.

In 1989, a KLM airlines 747 with 231 passengers aboard lost power to all four of its engines after flying through an ash cloud from the Redoubt Volcano in Alaska.  The plane plunged from 27,000 to 13,000 feet before the pilots were able to re-start the engines and finish the flight to Anchorage Alaska.

And volcanic ash also can be toxic to humans, animals and plant life - not only from inhaling the particulates, but as Bill Burton said, from acid rain caused by the sulfur in the ash. "One of the main constituents of the (volcanic) gases is sulfur. And that comes out and oxidizes into sulfur dioxide and that combines with water to form sulfuric acid droplets. And those droplets can then be the source of acid rain. They also can block the sunlight to contribute to climate change, climate cooling in this case," he said.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in London says that the high atmospheric pressure over the Atlantic is dictating that the wind strengths and the cloud will stay in northern Europe.  However, should the pressure change, the cloud could move more toward the Mediterranean.

Bill Miller of CheapOair says that many airlines are keeping travelers informed.  But he said travelers need to be patient. "It's a volcano, so nobody can really accurately predict what is going to happen. How long it is going to take.  There are some airports that are already shut down all the way through Monday (April, 19).  So I think the traveling public needs to make sure that they are aware of what communications channels to stay tuned into," he said.

Miller told VOA that some insurers are covering the tickets for canceled flights.   And while airlines are losing millions of dollars to lost tickets, Miller said they are also not spending money for fuel, flight crews, and other expenses.  While that is small comfort for stranded travelers, for now, there is nothing to do but wait.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs