The European agreement on reducing flying shutdowns came after the 27 EU transport ministers and representatives of the air transport industry had been huddled in tense conference, through video link. They weighed up the safety and economic considerations of restricting airspace while the volcanic ash clears.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA)was warning that the economic impact of the volcano crisis will be higher that that of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani spoke frankly: “I call it a European mess. Why? Because we did not focus on figures and facts. Europe was using a theoretical mathematical approach. That is not what we need. We needed some tests. We needed some test flights to go in the atmosphere, assess the level of ashes and take decisions.”
During the day, the European Commission had said it was considering loosening strict EU rules for state aid to help airlines suffering from lost revenues. Brussels said clauses allowing help in the case of natural disasters meant any request for aid would be made by the carriers to their respective national governments.