EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about air traffic chaos was published by EurActiv on 19th April 2010.

The Spanish EU Presidency said on Sunday it was possible that 50% of flights in Europe could operate today (19 April) following disruption caused by clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland. EU transport ministers will assess the situation in a teleconference.

Spain’s Secretary of State for EU Affairs Diego Lopez Garrido told reporters after a meeting at European aviation control agency Eurocontrol the ash cloud was moving slightly to the northeast, which could free up half of European air space.

“The forecast is that there will be half of flights possibly operating tomorrow. It will be difficult; that’s why we have to coordinate,” he said. European Union Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas also told the same briefing he hoped that 50% of European airspace would be risk free on Monday.

Kallas said the current situation was “not sustainable” and European authorities were working to find a solution that did not compromise safety.

“We cannot wait until the ash flows just disappear,” he said.

Garrido said test flights had shown no damage to aircraft from the ash cloud.

“Lufthansa made 11 flights, KLM nine, Air France seven and the results show no impact in the area […] no impact coming from the ash cloud,” he said.

Kallas said a technical meeting of EU transport ministers on Monday afternoon would assess information from the test flights conducted in European countries.

“Based on new information from the test flights yesterday and today, we may be able to make a decision,” he said. “All these new elements should be taken into account in the technical meeting.”

He stressed the importance of a coordinated European response. “We have to deliver a more accurate European solution to open progressively European air space,” he said.

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