Indian carriers to decide on flights to Europe
Officials of Kingfisher, Jet and AI held separate meetings over Iceland volcano ash disruption.
New Delhi: In the wake of the flight disruption in Europe due to ash spewing from an Icelandic volcano, officials of major Indian carriers on Wednesday held meetings to decide on diversion or cancellation of their flights.
Officials of Kingfisher Airlines, Jet Airways and Air India held separate meetings to take a decision on their flight schedules as hundreds of flights continued to be grounded for the second day today in the UK, Ireland and the northern parts of Europe.
The three Indian carriers have been asked by the Civil Aviation Ministry to draw up alternate routes to and from North America over the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and also to Western Europe, official sources said.
The airlines and the Indian authorities were seeking permission to have technical halts to pick up and drop passengers from Athens, Rome, Cairo and airports in unaffected European cities, they said.
However, no firm decision has yet been taken but the situation was being "very closely monitored", they said.
Even though some quarters described the flight cancellations as "a massive over reaction by badly prepared safety regulators", there has been no blanket ban on flights as was imposed during eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April last year that left millions stranded.
This time, winds have blown the cloud of ash from the Grimsvotn Volcano over Scotland and other parts of Europe, leading to over 500 flights being cancelled yesterday and more expected on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, reports said that leading European low-cost carrier, Ryanair, flew an empty aircraft through the dense ash yesterday and claimed that no damage was caused to it. Experts say that particles in the ash could stall jet engines and sandblast planes' windows.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that the "mismanagement" of 2010 volcanic ash crisis had cost airlines $1.8 billion in lost revenues and cost the global economy as a whole USD five billion.
In a statement from Geneva, the IATA said there was "improved coordination" among European authorities thus far in managing its airspace in light of the latest volcanic eruption.
IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani said while safety could never be compromised, states should not implement blanket closures of airspace. Regulators should accept the airlines' capability to conduct their own safety risk assessments prior to flight in any ash affected area, he said.
"European Transport Ministers should formally agree their determination to avoid a repeat of the 2010 chaos by embracing a common process based on airline safety risk assessments for determining whether and when it is safe to fly", Bisignani said.
He also asserted that "Europe must urgently follow-up on its promise from last year to accelerate the Single European Sky and ensure that safe airspace remains open for business".