Lufthansa says operating one in nine flights

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Lufthansa plans to carry more than 15,000 passengers on some 200 flights on Tuesday, but this only represents just over 11 percent of its normal daily schedule, the German flag carrier said.

Lufthansa, Europe's biggest airline by passenger numbers, would make use of special permission to fly visually rather than relying on instruments, and staying in constant contact with air traffic controllers, a spokesman told AFP.

Otherwise, German airspace is closed until 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) because of the volcanic ash from Iceland in the atmosphere that has caused havoc for millions of European air passengers since last week.

"Today (Tuesday) all long-haul flights with only a few exceptions as well as some intra-european and domestic flights will take place," Lufthansa said in a statement.

"During the day Lufthansa plans to expand its flight plan gradually," it added, saying that whether a flight would operate "depends on the current conditions."

"At present it is not possible to predict how the air traffic situation in Europe will progress. Lufthansa is keeping a close eye on developments and is in constant contact with the relevant ministries, aviation authorities, meteorological services and airports."

It published on a list of which flights were operating.

On Monday, the airline, which along with other European carriers criticised the shutdown, managed to carry around 15,000 people. Normally Lufthansa operates some 1,800 flights daily.

Air Berlin, Germany's number two, was confident it would have "almost a complete programme" on Tuesday, with "significantly" more than the 104 flights operated on Monday, which carried 15,000 passengers, a spokeswoman told AFP.

It even had to cancel some flights "because of a lack of passengers," chief executive Joachim Hunold said on Deutschlandfunk radio.

Scientists from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) carried out a test flight on Monday and were able to see a definite brown tinge in the clouds from the volcanic ash with their bare eyes, a spokesman told Bayerische Rundfunk radio.

"There really is a cloud," spokesman Andreas Schuetz said.

Further results from the test were due later on Tuesday.

The German pilots' union Cockpit expressed concern that allowing planes to fly visually rather than relying on instruments was unsafe before the test results were known.

"Our assessment is that it cannot be safely ruled out that incidents could occur," spokesman Joerg Handwerg said on ARD public television late on Monday. "Pilots feel under pressure because they feel obliged by employers to fly."

But Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer defended the decision.

"I am acting in a responsible manner," he said.

Meanwhile, between 700 and 800 stranded German tourists arrived in Frankfurt overnight after being brought back in special buses from Spain by tour operator TUI, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

"We have been treated well, everything was well organised," Bernd Vollertsen, a retired soldier who had spent a week on the Costa del Sol with his wife and some friends, told AFP after the 35-hour journey.

"But now I just want to get home."

© 2010 AFP

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