Flights resume, but sky's still not clear for fliers

MUMBAI: AIRLINES can finally breathe with the European airspace opening up after an asphyxiating six days brought on by volcanic ash from Iceland, but passengers may have to endure delays for at least another week, with the backlog throwing flight schedules into disarray.

Online PR News – 22-April-2010 – – Indian and European airlines said they would resume flights to the West with additional and bigger aircraft, soon after the European air navigation safety authority announced opening up of its airspace on Tuesday. However, they will not be able to accommodate new passengers as most of the cancelled flights were up to 90% booked, said an Air India spokesperson. The carrier has a backlog of at least 10,000 passengers.

“Airlines are giving priority to passengers who had confirmed tickets and are rescheduling them,” said Karan Anand, head, relationships and supplier management, Cox and Kings India. European carriers like Lufthansa, however, announced they would be taking fresh bookings for passengers from next week for European destinations.

On an average, 13 international flights take off everyday from India carrying 3,500 passengers.

Air-India plans to resume flights on European and Canadian routes from April 22 by deploying a jumbo jet, the Boeing 747-400, which can carry more passengers on than the Boeing 777-300 ER it currently runs on the routes.

The airline is adding almost 423 seats on these sectors. Private carrier Jet Airways is also likely to run an additional flight to London with over 300 extra seats on the route.

Kingfisher Airlines, which has not operated a single flight for the past six days to London, will start operations from Thursday. The airline has a backlog of about 7,000 passengers.

According to the European regulator, around 100,000 flights have been cancelled since April 15 and the European airspace will open with at least 25% fewer flights on Wednesday.

The travel trade believes passengers will have to endure uncertainty till May 15, with the only saving grace being that the peak season for travel to Europe is yet to begin. “People have gone in for multiple bookings, and these may be cancelled over the next few weeks,” said Ankur Bhatia, managing director, Amadeus India.

Travellers like Sameer Irani, a Mumbai-based businessman, are waiting for just such an opportunity. Mr Irani had to postpone his holiday to Long Island, beginning April 16, to May when the crisis hit. “The airline could give us tickets only for May-end. They could not cancel tickets booked from April 22 onward as this would have a cascading effect.”