Saturday 24 February 2018

300,000 passengers hit as airlines here lose €70m

Paul Melia

MORE than 300,000 airline passengers were grounded and 2,100 flights to and from Ireland cancelled since last Thursday because of the volcanic ash crisis.

And the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) last night warned that it was not over and that further disruption could ensue if the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began spewing vast quantities of ash back into the atmosphere.

The full extent of the crisis was revealed last night by IAA chief executive Eamonn Brennan who told the Dail Transport Committee that at the peak last Sunday, 84pc of flights across Europe were cancelled. And he rejected claims from some pilots that aircraft could have taken to the skies sooner.

"It is important to recognise the unprecedented scope of the crisis that faced us," he said.

"This was the first time in 60 years the Ireland-US track was closed. This ash cloud went right over the continent in an area of very dense traffic. We moved pretty sharpish because we're in the business of safety. It was the right thing to do in the circumstances."

"Since last Thursday, 2,139 flights have been cancelled in Irish airports affecting some 300,000 passengers. Airline losses across Europe are estimated at €200m per day, while Irish airlines estimate a €70m loss. Ryanair is losing €6m per day, Aer Lingus €5m and Cityjet €1m per day."

At its peak, the volcano was producing 750 tonnes of material a second and the plume was 6km high. But its unstable nature meant safety experts could not predict when the plume would clear and not until data was gathered on the effect the ash might have on engines could restrictions be lifted. "We were trying to build a risk model which involved four to five days of test flights and scientific analysis," he said.

Emergency Taskforce, chairman Maurice Mullen, said there was a "lot of lessons learned".

Irish Independent

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