As mentioned in a previous article, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupting in Iceland and freezing air travel in mid-April has generated its fair share of inconveniences and controversy for many around the globe. Families were split, planes were grounded, and above all, incredibly large amounts of money were lost.
According to European Union regulation 261, airlines are required to reimburse their customers should their flights be delayed or cancelled. In an effort to ensure that all airlines that suffered from the eruption comply with this regulation, EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas made it clear that no airline should be granted an unfair advantage when it came to ensuring that their respective clients be compensated for whichever losses they may have sustained.
In this statement to the press, he also made it clear that state-aid could very well be provided, as the costs involved could very well put some airlines out of business. In an estimate made by Kallas, the total cost of the crisis to airlines and the tourism industry could be in excess of 2.5 billion Euros, or more than 3.3 billion USD.
The flight ban, which began on the 14th of April, was a result of the volcanic ash thrown into the skies following the eruption, generating risks of airplane engine failure should the debris come into contact with the relatively delicate aircraft propellers.
As a result of the week-long flight ban, many different airlines are requesting government compensation, and, most notoriously the low-budget airline Ryanair, have made efforts to find a loopholes in the EU regulations in order to avoid making payments to disgruntled customers. Unfortunately for these airlines, money is hard to find these days as the European economy continues to recover from the financial meltdown that took place not long ago.
Despite some initial intentions to not pay back stranded customers, airlines like Ryanair and BMI have quickly gone back on their decisions to do so when faced with considerable government pressure. Thankfully for travelers who suffered from the volcanic eruption, Kallas stated he was not aware of any airlines defying the government call to fair reimbursement.
However, controversy has arisen over whether or not airlines should receive government aid in paying back their clients, or if they should have to pay them back at all. Ryanair has contested regulation in saying that they do not charge clients as much as other airlines, and therefore should not be subject to the same rules and regulations should such a disaster strike. Many airlines have also stated that the event was completely out of their control, and that they should not have to foot the cost for something they could not predict or plan around.
As of now, passengers should not fear lack of compensation for their accommodations and essential purchases. It has not yet been determined whether or not airlines will receive compensation for their losses, but the TSA should come to a conclusion in collaboration with the European Union within the next few days.