AIRLINES across the globe, including those in Nigeria are beginning to count losses occasioned by the volcano, which erupted in Iceland and spread to many parts of Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of air passengers have been plunged into turmoil since Thursday, as an erupting volcano grounded all British flights. Experts say the chaos could drag on for days.
All, but emergency, flights in and out of the UK were cancelled, as a cloud of ash drifted from Iceland. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the clearinghouse for global airlines, said the standstill costs airlines a daily revenue loss of about £130 million, spiraling to about £390 million in three days.
In Lagos, Arik, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France/KLM, and other European carriers have started counting their losses as well.
Spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic Airways in Nigeria, Kudirat Scott-Igbene, disclosed that affected passengers that needed to be booked into hotels had been accommodated, adding that two of its flights were expected to depart Lagos yesterday and may airlift the passengers when the airspace is finally opened.
Other carriers like BA, Air France/KLM equally had similar arrangements, while many, who could no longer continue with their trips, were given the option of refund.
In all, foreign airlines operating outside Nigeria to Europe may have cumulatively lost over £20 million in hotel bills for stranded passengers, in line with global aviation rule.
In the wake of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, large sections of the airspace and many airports in Central and Northern Europe on a line extending from Britain through Paris and Berlin, and as far as the Baltic States, have been closed by air safety authorities.
Spokesman for Lufthansa German Airline, Nigeria, Hakeem Jimo, in a statement yesterday, said like all other airlines, Lufthansa must comply with directives issued by ministries and air traffic control.
"In Germany, the airports in Dortmund, Dsseldorf, Hanover, Bremen, Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg and Mnster/Osnabrck have shut down. All arrivals and departures there have been cancelled. Furthermore, since 8am local time, Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa's principle hub, suspended its operation until at least 8pm local time. Passengers, who have booked flights from the above-mentioned airports are requested not to travel to the airport and to keep up-to-date with the status of their flights by visiting the Lufthansa website at www.lufthansa.com".
Speaking to The Guardian yesterday at Gatwick Airport, frustrated travelers accused air traffic controllers of over-reacting, causing a flight standstill that could cost the airline industry £30 million a day. For three days that the airports remained closed, the losses could reach £90 million.
But experts said aircraft had to be grounded, since the ash could affect visibility or shut down engines, causing airplanes to crash.
Arrivals and departures across most of Britain were wiped out from noon yesterday, with airspace closed until 1pm at the earliest.
Among the airports brought to a standstill was Heathrow, which usually handles 1, 300 flights and 200, 000 passengers a day.
Flights were also called off in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France and the Netherlands.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman, Richard Taylor, said the effect on flights was 'worse than 9/11 terror attacks.
Passengers were forced to find hotels or pour on to other means of transport, including trains, ferries and coaches. At Heathrow, 70 year-old Patrick Keys, who hoped to get home to Dublin said, "I think they over-reacted. The skies were totally clear".
But air traffic controllers insisted that, "safety is our priority."
New York Times
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