Ireland to Lift Volcano Ash Flight Restrictions

The Irish Aviation Authority lifted flight restrictions imposed after a drift of volcanic ash from Iceland, allowing Ireland’s airports to open.

Airports resumed operations starting at 1 p.m. local time, Irish Aviation Authority spokesman Martin Towey said. IAA last night imposed restrictions on all flights in and out of Ireland from 7 a.m.

“It looks okay for today but it’s very hard to forecast the wind patterns,” Towey said in a telephone interview. “If there’s a sudden change in the wind, it could be for the good or it could be for the bad.”

The April 14 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano spread an ash plume thousands of miles, resulting in the cancelation of more than 100,000 flights across Europe. The disruption cost airlines about $1.7 billion in revenue, International Air Transport Association CEO Giovanni Bisignani estimated April 21.

At a meeting of European transport ministers in Brussels, the European Commission said that it would lead work to present new proposals on managing the risk posed by volcanic activity to the International Civil Aviation Organization in September and speed up efforts to create a so-called “Single European Sky” that should ensure faster response to any crisis.

No State Aid

The ministers and EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas also agreed not to give airlines compensation for losses sustained because of the travel disruption, Danish Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt said via a spokesman.

EU member states may provide rapid support to airlines such as market-rates loans and guarantees, and the European Commission would consider “constructively” requests for state aid, according to Helen Kearns, transport spokeswoman at the commission. The commission hasn’t yet received any applications for state aid.

“No one can prevent an eruption or other kinds of natural disaster,” Kallas said after the meeting. “But we can build strong pan-European transport systems, so that different modes can ease the pressure when a crisis occurs.”

Air France-KLM Group fell 5.7 percent to close at 11.35 euros in Paris trading. Deutsche Lufthansa AG dropped 4.7 percent to 12.05 euros on the Frankfurt exchange. British Airways Plc lost 5.3 percent to 216.3 pence in London.

Ryanair, Aer Lingus

Ryanair Holdings Plc fell 3 percent to 3.62 euros in Dublin. Aer Lingus Group Plc lost 6.9 percent to 68 cents. Both carriers are based in the Irish capital.

Germany is against countries setting maximum limits for volcanic ash unilaterally and, instead, wants uniform rules that apply to whole EU region, said Sebastian Rudolph, a spokesman for German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer, said after the meeting.

All U.K. airspace opened from 1 p.m., apart from a small area in the northwest that isn’t expected to have any impact on operations, the U.K.’s National Air Traffic Services said on its website.

Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Mueller told analysts on a conference call that the final cost of the disruption will depend on the level of passenger refund claims. He repeated an estimate that the disruption will cost the airline about 20 million euros ($26 million).

The carrier also said today it was “encouraged” by first- quarter trading as fares rose and fuel costs fell.

‘Summer of Uncertainty’

“We’re not out of the woods,” Eamonn Brennan, chief executive officer of the government agency, said in an interview with RTE Radio. Ireland remains at risk for the rest of the week and “we’re probably facing a summer of uncertainty due to this ash cloud,” he said.

Germany’s air-traffic control agency has no plan at the moment to restrict airspace and is monitoring the situation in Ireland, spokesman Axel Raab said in a telephone interview.

French Junior Environment Minister Chantal Jouanno said in an interview on France2 television station that it’s too early to tell whether the country’s airports will close.

The current wind direction over the volcano is northwesterly, “which can blow ash over Ireland and disrupt air traffic there in the days to come,” said Helga Ivarsdottir, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Met Office. “The forecast for the end of the week and early next week indicates a stronger wind, which can have a greater effect.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Louisa Fahy at lnesbitt@bloomberg.net; To contact the reporters on this story: Steve Rothwell in London at srothwell@bloomberg.net

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