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Iceland Eruption Would Disrupt Airlines Less This Time

Volcano Hits Flights

Airlines forced to tear up timetables after ash spewed from an Icelandic volcano in 2010 face less disruption from a repeat because they’ve adopted a more scientific process to identify the most dangerous skies.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the percentage of flights canceled and number of passengers grounded four years ago, when a cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano forced carriers to scrap more than 100,000 flights, costing $1.7 billion in lost revenue. While 80 percent of trips were idled on the worst day, a similar event now would bring significantly fewer cancellations, according to airspace manager Eurocontrol.

“There has been a move towards a more harmonized approach which recognizes that decisions to perform flights in airborne contamination such as ash or sand should be made by airlines, based on conclusions of their safety risk assessment,” the Brussels-based organization said in a statement. “This approach significantly reduces the number of flights that would have to be canceled in the event of another ash crisis.”

After the events of 2010, repeated on a smaller scale the next year, Eurocontrol began annual ash-crisis exercises and developed an interactive tool to map dust-concentration data from volcanic research centers in London and Toulouse, France, rather than relying on predictions based on weather forecasts.

Seismic activity around Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has prompted authorities to lift the risk-assessment estimate to “orange,” the second-highest level. Air France-KLM Group, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are among carriers on alert for ash, which is a menace to jets because the glass-like particles can damage engines.

In the event of a Bardarbunga eruption, EasyJet Plc plans to test ash-detectors it’s developing with partners including Airbus Group NV and Nicarnica Aviation. The technology available today would have resulted in the closure of less than 3 percent of the airspace affected in 2010, spokesman Paul Moore said.

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