Ash cloud: Airline bosses attacks flight restrictions following volcano eruption

23rd May 2011

Europe's largest low-cost airline Ryanair has been joined by other airlines including rival easyjet in challenging the decision by Irish authorities to suspend flights to Scotland following the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland.

The carrier is reported on the Financial Times website (paywall) as seeking  a meeting with the Irish Aviation Authority to have the restriction lifted, it claimed the cancellation of flights into or out of Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh or Aberdeen was "unnecessary".

On the Daily Mail website Ryanair is quoted as "branding the volcanic ash cloud a 'mythical and misguided invention.

A statement posted earlier on the Dublin-based airline's website said: "Ryanair … believe that there is no basis for these flight cancellations and will be meeting with the IAA on Tuesday morning to have this restriction on Ryanair flights removed as a matter of urgency."

The Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland began erupting on Sunday, causing flights to be cancelled at the country's main Keflavik airport.

The ash cloud will have its biggest impact on those intending to fly to and from Iceland, but also international flights to and from the US that follow jet streams close to Iceland as they look to keep fuel costs to a minimum.

Share in listed airline groups suffered as a result of the news. On Monday afternoon Easyjet shares had fallen 4.3% to 347p, while International Consolidated Airlines Group, the merged BA-Iberia, was 4.77% lower at 236p.

Travel groups more broadly were also hit. FTSE 100 group Tui Travel was down 2.57% to 231p, while mid-cap Thomas Cook was 3.52% weaker at 145p.

Ryanair, which also put out results this morning, was down 5.03%, having been down 8% at one stage.

Ryanair Holdings' chief financial officer Howard Millar said he wasn't concerned, adding that there wouldn't be as much disruption as caused by the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, last year – which forced 34 countries to shut their airspace – as the ash this time is "heavier and falling more quickly".

He added the degree of "panic and hysteria" shown by European regulators and governments last year wouldn't be repeated as lessons had been learnt.

The Guardian reported that even the US president, Barack Obama, was forced to amend his itinerary, flying into London earlier than planned to avoid the dense plume drifting towards the UK.

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