$200m a day goes up in smoke

DUBAI - The Emirates airline said yesterday it was losing $10million (R75million) a day, reaching a total of $50million so far, due to flight disruptions caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano.

DUBAI - The Emirates airline said yesterday it was losing $10million (R75million) a day, reaching a total of $50million so far, due to flight disruptions caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano.

Large parts of Europe enforced no-fly rulings for a fourth day yesterday because of a huge ash cloud from the volcano that has caused the worst air travel chaos since the September 11 attacks on New York's twin towers.

"Emirates is losing revenue from 18000 passengers a day as airspace across the UK and much of Europe remains closed," the Dubai-governmenty owned company said.

"Around 30 Emirates aircraft are grounded - equivalent to one fifth of the fleet."

More than 80000 passengers have been affected by the disruption, the airline added.

"Like every carrier operating to Europe, Emirates is facing huge losses, $10million a day in our case," the airline's president Tim Clark said.

The airline has stopped flights to all European destinations, barring Moscow, Athens, Larnaca, Malta and Istanbul - until April 20.

The United Arab Emirates is home to Emirates airline, the largest customer for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, as well as Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Sharjah's Air Arabia.

Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, also cancelled all flights to Europe until further notice.

Through yesterday, a clampdown held across much of Europe, posing a growing problem for businesses - especially airlines, estimated to be losing $200million a day - and for thousands of travellers stranded worldwide.

The European aviation agency Eurocontrol said only 4000 flights were expected in European airspace yesterday, compared with 24000 normally. It said a total of 63000 flights had been cancelled in European airspace since Thursday.

Dutch airline KLM pressed for commercial air traffic to resume yesterday after conducting a test flight "with no irregularities" through the volcanic ash cloud.

Millions of passengers have had plans foiled or delayed because of the ban on air travel that has gradually expanded over large sections of Europe since Thursday. - Reuters, Sapa-AP

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