Safety main concern on airspace reopening: EU

19th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Safety will be the main factor influencing any reopening of air traffic in Europe, the Spanish EU presidency said Monday amid airline pressure to ease restrictions imposed by a volcano ash cloud over much of Europe.

"Our main concern is everything that concerns safety and prevention," Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, told public radio RNE.

"We must be prudent and act rigorously. People need to understand that we are working to ensure their safety even if this causes numerous problems and heavy losses," he added ahead of a video conference of EU member states' transport ministers later on Monday.

Earlier, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Giovanni Bisignani, urged governments to reopen routes through the volcanic ash cloud over Europe after airlines successfully carried out test flights.

IATA, which represents the global airline industry, said companies are losing 200 million euros (270 million dollars) per day. Air France-KLM said that it alone was losing 35 million euros per day.

Blanco said EU transport ministers would analyse the test flights' results during a videoconference due to get underway at 3:00 pm.

He acknowledged that the flight restrictions put in place across Europe were deemed "excessive by some" but he said that "in the event of a non-desired event" such as an air crash "no one would assume responsibility".

"We can't raise false hopes nor can we raise false fears. We don't know how long this situation will last," Blanco added.

Some major European carriers -- including Air France, British Airways and KLM -- reported no problems after launching flights to test fears that the ash cloud destroy jet engines.

Airspace across much of Europe has been closed since Thursday due to an ash cloud sparked by an eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano.

The Brussels-based Eurocontrol, a continent-wide aviation authority, said only 30 percent of European flights would go ahead Monday.

Nearly seven million passengers have been affected by the airspace closures which governments say are essential for safety reasons.

© 2010 AFP

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