Flights take off but ash limits Norway, Sweden



Flights take off but ash limits Norway, Sweden Brussels: Aviation authorities say they have closed the airspace over parts of Norway and Sweden as shifting winds send a new cloud of volcanic ash over Scandinavia.

The Swedish aviation authority says airspace is still open over the capital Stockholm, but closed over the southern cities of Goteborg and Malmo, and large parts of western and northern Sweden.

Authority spokesman Bjorn Stenberg says changing winds meant the ash cloud over Sweden didn't disperse as forecast. "The situation has gotten worse," the Swedavia airport authority said in a separate statement. "The forecasts are more uncertain than they have been."

Meanwhile, new ash clouds are blowing in over western Norway.

In Norway, the airports of Bergen and Stavanger, respectively the second and fourth biggest Norwegian airports, were closed and helicopter flights to offshore oil platforms were halted.

Compensation

Meanwhile, airline executives have pressed for government compensation to cover the industry's massive losses.

Eurocontrol, Europe's air safety authority, said they expected air traffic to be "almost 100 percent" on Thursday, estimating that 75 percent of the 28,000 flights normally scheduled on Wednesday had flown.

All Europe's main air hubs were up and running on Wednesday and experts in Iceland said the Eyjafjjoell volcano had lost most of its intensity.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put the overall cost to the airline industry at USD 1.7 billion (EUR 1.3 billion): at its peak, said IATA, the crisis was costing USD 400 million a day.

"For an industry that lost USD 9.4 billion last year and was forecast to lose a further USD 2.8 billion in 2010, this crisis is devastating," said IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani in Berlin.

"Airspace was being closed based on theoretical models, not on facts."

Now governments needed to look at how to compensate the airlines, he said.

"I am the first one to say that this industry does not want or need bailouts. But this crisis is not the result of running our business badly."

An extraordinary situation had been exacerbated by "poor decision-making" from the governments," he argued.

"Governments should help carriers recover the cost of this disruption."

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh had already branded the ban unnecessary, and British opposition leader David Cameron called for a public inquiry into the government's handling of the crisis.

Conservative leader Cameron, who is locked in an election battle with Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said there had been "muddle and confusion" in the government over the crisis.

But as the recriminations flew, one volcanologist advising the United Nations said the authorities had had no choice but to close their airspace because of the lack of hard facts about aircraft behaviour in volcanic ash.

Bureau Report