Ash Cloud Redux: European and U.K. Airports Shut Again

The volcano in Iceland, the eruption of which caused some airports to shut for several days a month ago, has begun to belch ash again, as in this photo.The volcano in Iceland whose eruption caused airports across Europe to shut for several days a month ago has begun to belch ash again, causing some airports in Italy, Spain, Scotland and elsewhere to close. The ash may also affect airspace above Switzerland and Portugal, raising the question of how widespread and lengthy the flight interruptions could be.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano could interrupt air traffic from time to time for months or longer. It had erupted off and on for two years in the early 19th century. Scientists say it's impossible to reliably estimate how long current eruptions could continue.

The IATA, which represent over 200 airlines, released a report during the last spate of interruptions that said the industry had lost over $1.7 billion because of the volcanic activity.

The problem comes at a particularly difficult time for the industry. It hasn't entirely recovered from the impact of the recession on air traffic and the consequent lost revenue. High fuel prices were mostly to blame for losses at several U.S. carriers last quarter. Crude prices have dropped from $87 three week ago to $77 recently as stock markets have plunged, but that drop may be temporary if the markets recover and European debt problems are sorted out. But more volcanic eruptions that close airports again would likely more than offset any fuel price drops.
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