As the aviation industry counts the financial cost of the ash cloud calamity thousands of flights have been taking to the skies over Europe.
Some 21,000 out of 28,000 scheduled flights were expected to take-off on Wednesday.
Many passengers have made it home after being marooned abroad for days by airspace restrictions imposed because of the drifting plume of volcanic ash from Iceland.
“It’s absolute chaos out there,” said one weary female passenger arriving at Gatwick in London. “You can’t imagine it. It’s… people stranded everywhere desperate, absolutey desperate to get home.”
One traveller still in his holiday garb said: “We are very, very glad to be home, it’s been a very hectic time, a very stressful time.”
Questions are now being asked about why European governments took as long as they did to lift the blanket airspace ban despite successful test flights.
Brian FLynn, Eurocontrol Deputy Head of Operations said: “We now have to sit down whenever we are back to a normal situation and we have to examine, altogether, any lessons we could possibly learn from this. We have acquired a huge wealth of knowledge from this experience and that must be used for the benefit of not just European aviation but worldwide aviation.”
The ash cloud has thinned and drifted westward opening a window of opportunity for flights to resume and meteorologists in Iceland say the volcano is producing less ash now, most of which is hanging at or below 6,000 metres.
A test flight has recorded differing levels of ash over several locations in Germany. The report said the highest density was comparable to dust above the Sahara desert.