Europe Air Travel Restrictions Eased

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Oceanside, CA – European officials eased air travel restrictions across most of the continent as of late April 20, opening the door for a resumption of travel that had been suspended for about a week due to huge clouds of ash generated by the erupting volcano in Iceland.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced a phased reopening of skies that had been closed over much of Great Britain and Ireland. EUROCONTROL said in a separate announcement that airspace above 20,000 feet was being opened up for approximately 75% of continental Europe.

The move was expected to begin unraveling the travel gridlock that stranded scores of passengers around the world, including many attendees and exhibitors headed for trade shows. Although no major exhibitions were cancelled, the travel halt was expected to cut into crowd counts and left some international exhibitors with booths that were either unmanned or staffed with replacement personnel from branch offices.

Show managers for bauma 2010, the massive German construction equipment exhibition, said 80 of the show’s 3,150 booths had been vacant on April 19; however, that number had been reduced by one-third the following day, with more exhibitor personnel continually arriving. “We are expecting that in the course of the next two days business at the trade fair can continue without restrictions for the most part,” said Klaus Dittrich, chairman & CEO of Messe München GmbH. “We are offering delayed exhibitors support, such as help with any equipment they still need for their stands.”

Both EUROCONTROL and the CAA indicated overall air traffic would not return to normal levels. The CAA said British flights would be required to undergo an inspection for ash damage prior to and at the end of each trip. Restrictions on the number of lower-altitude flights across France and Germany were also in place.

About 13,000 flights in European airspace were projected for April 20 compared to approximately 28,000 on a normal Tuesday, according to EUROCONTROL.

Reach Klaus Dittrich at (+49 89) 9 49 20 720 or klaus.dittrich@messe-munchen.de