Chaos 'rivals' 9/11 shutdown

2010-04-17 20:01

Washington - The air traffic paralysis across Europe due to volcanic ash "rivals the massive shutdown" of air travel after the September 11, 2001 attacks, an International Air Transport Association official said Saturday.

"Right now through most of Europe we do not see many flights moving at all," noted Steve Lott, an IATA spokesperson in Washington.

"It certainly rivals the massive shutdown that we saw after 9/11," he told AFP.

After the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, US airspace was closed for three days, forcing European airlines to suspend all transatlantic flights.

"Now we are on day three of this massive shutdown," said Lott of the travel chaos, adding that "we don't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet" as the vast ash cloud continues to blow across much of Europe from the Icelandic volcano.

Some 17 000 flights in European airspace on Saturday have been cancelled, said Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control in 38 nations. It has described the situation as "unprecedented."

IATA, which represents 230 airlines operating 93% of international trade traffic, estimates the shutdown's cost for the industry amounts to about $200m each day.