As a volcanic ash cloud disrupted air travel across Europe for a fourth day, airlines called on the authorities to reopen the continent’s airspace.
Dutch carrier KLM was one of those that carryied out test flights on Sunday. Its chief executive Peter Hartman said he wants to start flying again and questioned the total shutdown of Europe’s skies.
“We want several routes to be opened again so we don’t paralyse the whole of western Europe. What is going on now is not based on any scientific criteria,” Hartman said.
“We have been constantly asking meteorologists to give us some criteria. Tell us why you did this and where have you measured it,” he added.
But Christoph Hartmann from the German Met Office explained that measuring the ash cloud is “an extremely difficult task.”
He said: “We are able to calculate the explosion of a nuclear power plant, but the eruption of a volcano is something really rare. We are not used to it.”
KLM’s partner Air France also carried some test flights in southern France.
German carriers Air Berlin and Lufthansa, meanwhile, have both criticised the near total closure of European airspace.
Already battered by the global economic downturn, the flying restrictions are eating into the airlines’ revenues and costing the industry several million euros per day.
EU transport ministers are set to hold a videolink conference on Monday to decide if it is safe to reopen the continent’s airspace.