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Airlines lose $1 billion in revenue

By Kenneth Ehigiator with Agency reports
Airlines across Europe may have lost $1 billion in revenue to the volcanic ash which entered its third day today, even as Arik Air suspended its London flight as a result of the development which has kept Europe-bound Nigerian passengers stranded at airports in the country for the third day running.

The Centre for Pacific Aviation, which came up with estimate, said the volcanic eruption could continue for three more days.

“The lost revenue for the industry could be in the hundreds of millions, possibly as high as $1 billion,” Derek Sadubin, chief operating officer of the Sydney-based industry consultant, said in comments.

He said some six million passengers will be affected if the shutdown of European airports continued, listing Delta Airlines Inc., British Airways Plc and Qantas Airways Limited as among the dozens of airlines that have scrapped services after Iceland’s 5,500-foot Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted and winds carried dust across a swath of northern Europe.

“It will take days to restore schedules, even if the scare is called off today.”

Service disruptions intensified as airports in the region remained shut, possibly leading to the cancellation of half of all departures today. British airspace will be closed until at least 1 a.m. tomorrow, according to flight-control authority National Air Traffic Services, compounding disruptions that are among the most severe in U.K. aviation history.

In Germany, 10 airports, including Frankfurt, were shuttered, according to the DFS air traffic control agency.

Qantas, which has more than 1,000 passengers holding at Asian stopovers, cancelled four services today and is unlikely to resume Europe flights before April 18, spokesman David Epstein said. Singapore Airlines Ltd axed eight flights while Air China Ltd and All Nippon Airways Co. also scrapped services.

Airlines worldwide will lose a collective $2.8 billion in 2010 after an estimated $9.4 billion cumulative loss last year, the International Air Transport Association predicted last month.

The ash_plume threat will continue through April 18 for Europe, AccuWeather.com said. NATS is not expecting a rapid improvement in the conditions.

“In general, the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west,” the agency said in a statement.

The ash plume covered most of Norway and Scotland, as well as parts of England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Russia, according to data from the U.K. Met Office’s volcanic_ash advisory service.
In Nigeria, the situation remained as it was Thursday, as flights to Europe were suspended by all European Airlines operating into the country.

An official of Lufthansa Airlines told Vanguard on the telephone last night that all flights from Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt remained suspended, as the airlines’ hub in Africa is shut down for the second day running.

Other European Airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Iberia, Air France, also have their flights suspended, and have issued statements to their customers to that effect.

Vanguard learnt that the airlines are also incurring separate bills arising from checking their stranded passengers into hotels, while they wait for clearance from home to start operations.

However, non-European airlines have operated out of the country without any inhibitions, as airlines such as Emirates, Afriqiyah Airways, China Southern Airlines and Delta Airlines operated flights.

Spokesman of Delta Airlines in Nigeria, Mr. Tope Awe, said the airline had been operating all its flights from Lagos and Abuja, adding that only its flights to Europe from the United States were affected by the volcanic ash incident.

Arik Air said in a statement last night that it was unable to operate its flights into London Heathrow from Lagos and Abuja, since there was no improvement in the weather conditions in the UK.

The airline said it suspended flights in compliance with directive from UK Air Traffic Control Services (NATS) and for safety reasons.

It advised all its passengers who have been booked on any of its flights to London Heathrow from either Lagos or Abuja  to re-book their travel date and check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport.

The airline said those who have confirmed travel ticket could re-book for next week or a date of their choice within the next two weeks at no additional charge, subject to availability.

“Currently, seats are available for next week and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Change in booking must take place no later than two weeks after the original flight. Travel must be completed within the validity of the ticket or within three months from the original flight, whichever is later.

“Guests who have connecting domestic flights on Arik Air issued as part of their international tickets and in the same booking, may re_book this at the same time and no additional charge,” it said.


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