ASH CLOUDS emitted by Icelandic volcanic activity are estimated to have cost the European aviation industry around $2-3 billion in lost earnings. To date, the main disruption caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano was the widespread closure of European airspace for a six-day period in mid-April, though as this edition went to press a further period of widespread closures had hit Scottish and Irish airspace.
Initial problems began on April 15 when the Scandinavian countries and the UK bore the brunt of the closures, but the cloud was quickly judged to have spread south and west covering most of the continent. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled causing travel chaos for an estimated 10 million stranded passengers.
Many airlines subsequently questioned the need for the blanket closures introduced during some of the six-day period. They are now seeking government-level compensation in a similar way to how US carriers were helped after the post September 11 airspace closures. Following the April closures, European rules governing volcanic ash clouds were revised, allowing flights to continue through areas of low density ash.