Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday……

Posted on April 19, 2010

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TEST FLIGHTS BEGIN
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THE HAGUE – European airlines have begun conducting test flights through the volcanic ash that has paralysed air travel – even as they pressed for airspace to reopen and criticised governments for grounding jets.

Most of Europe remains a virtual no-fly zone for a fourth day, with about 30 countries closing or restricting airspace amid safety fears over the cloud of ash coming from an Icelandic volcano that showed no signs of letting up.

According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines are losing at least US$200 million ($275 million) a day from the widespread flight cancellations.

European air traffic control and safety agency Eurocontrol warned that by the end of yesterday, “we expect that more than 63,000 flights in total will have been cancelled”.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France and Air Berlin of Germany were among those who staged the test flights yesterday.

KLM flew the first international test flight yesterday, with a crew of 20 taking a Boeing 737 from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf – while Lufthansa flew 10 aircraft without passengers on a domestic run, from Frankfurt to Munich, on Saturday to prepare for air traffic returning to normal.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin also questioned the decision to close much of Europe’s airspace, saying it was not based on proper testing.

Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walter told Germany’s Bild daily: “The flight ban, made on the basis just of computer calculations, is resulting in billion-high losses for the economy.”

Meanwhile, the head of the European Union’s executive branch Jose Manuel Barroso has ordered a probe into the impact of the airspace shutdown on the airline industry and wider costs to Europe. AGENCIES

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