France to begin opening airports
France will begin to progressively reopen its airports from Monday while continuing to ask pilots to respect a no-fly zone in areas defined by EU aviation authorities, the government said.
France will reopen Lyon airport late Monday before opening air corridors for flights between Paris and southern French cities and eventually all the airports closed last week by a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland.
France said European transport ministers have agreed to divide the airspace into a no-fly zone defined by the Eurocontrol air traffic agency and "zones of precaution" in which traffic is regulated by national governments.
"French territory will be in these zones of precaution, which means that the reopening of all airports will be undertaken progressively," Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office said in a statement Monday.
It announced "a partial reopening of the airports north of the line between Nantes and Nice, which will allow a progressive return to normal traffic."
"Air corridors will open between Paris and airports in the south, notably Bordeaux-Paris, Marseille-Paris and Nice-Paris from 8:00 am on Tuesday (0600 GMT)," the statement added.
"Airports south of this line, including Nantes, will remain open. Lyon airport will reopen tonight," it said.
Airports in southern and western France -- including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice -- have remained open during the crisis, but flights schedules have been severely disrupted.
With no planes arriving from northern Europe or the French hubs around Paris, the airports have begun instead to accept rerouted flights from southern Europe, Africa the Middle East and Asia.
A diplomatic source in Brussels confirmed EU members had agreed to ease restrictions placed on flights since the ash cloud drifted south over the continent, raising fears it could damage passenger jets.
Meanwhile, the Iris Aviation Authority confirmed that Europe had agreed to allow states to operate a more flexible system, but warned: "Normal operations are not expected to be in place for up to three or four days."
© 2010 AFP