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18th Jan 2019

EU encourages air passengers to claim their rights amid ash disruptions

  • Stranded passengers have the right to compensation (Photo: afagen)

Stranded air passengers have the right to care and compensation even in the "exceptional circumstances" of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud which has caused major flight disruptions in mainland Europe, EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said on Thursday (15 April).

Hundreds of thousands of European passengers have been affected following the cancellation of some 5,000 flights on Thursday after the ash cloud formed by the major volcanic eruption moved eastwards. The ash can clog up the engines of airplanes meaning the vast majority of flights have been grounded.

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One by one, the entire national airspace was closed from Ireland to Scandinavia, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. The main airports in Poland, Germany and France were also shut down on Thursday evening.

Mr Kallas praised the swift actions taken by European air traffic authorities to keep planes on the ground as "the volcanic ash cloud is a very significant threat to air safety."

But even if this situation was considered "a very exceptional circumstance," he stressed that EU passenger rights "continue to apply and air travellers should speak up to claim their rights."

These include the right to refreshments, meals, accommodation, as well as reimbursement of fares or re-routing options.

The European air traffic control organisation said the ash cloud was progressing very slowly and remained "very dense," meaning that the flight cancellations could continue throughout the weekend.

In Poland, this could pose serious difficulties for world leaders wanting to attend Saturday's funeral of the late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, along with other 95 Polish officials who died in a plane crash last week.

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