Britain sent Royal Navy warships todayy to rescue those stranded across the Channel by the volcanic ash cloud and the aviation industry blasted European officials, claiming there was "no coordination and no leadership" in the crisis that shut down most European airports for a fifth day. Eurocontrol, the air traffic agency in Brussels, said less than one-third of flights in Europe were taking off Monday — between 8,000 and 9,000 of the continent's 28,000 scheduled flights. Passengers in Asia who had slept on airport floors for days and were running out of money staged protests at airport counters. All airports were open today in Spain and the country volunteered to become the new hub of Europe to get stranded passengers moving again. Infrastructure minister Jose Blanco said Spain could to take in around 100,000 people under the new emergency plan, which focuses on aircraft trying to bring Britons home from Asia, Latin America and North America. Spain will also beef up train, bus and ferry services to get travelers to their destinations, he said. European airlines sought financial compensation for a crisis that is costing the industry an estimated $200 million a day. British Airways said it was losing up to 20 million pounds ($30 million) a day and other airlines were also racking up huge losses. Hundreds of thousands of travelers have been stuck since the volcano under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier begun erupting Wednesday for the second time in a month. As pressure mounted from airlines, European civil aviation authorities were holding a conference call today about what steps could be taken toward opening airspace. "It's embarrassing, and a European mess," said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association. "It took five days to organize a conference call with the ministers of transport and we are losing $200 million per day (and) 750,000 passengers are stranded all over. Does it make sense?"
UK sends warships to rescue stranded Britons at airports
Published: Monday, April 19th, 2010
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