Siim Kallas, EU transport Commissioner, said the economic impact of the weeklong crisis had caused losses of estimated at between €1.5-2.5 billion, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The Eyjafjallajokull glacier eruption in southern Iceland caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights, and left 10 million passengers stranded.
Mr Kallas has called for a sweeping reform of air traffic control and short-term relief like lifting bans on night time flights, to help airlines cope with the losses.
He said the European Commission, which he briefed on the problems, was asking member nations to provide airlines immediate relief with measures such as making market-rate loans and deferring payments for air traffic control services.
Lifting restrictions on night-time flights meant to maintain quiet in neighbourhoods around airports would help airlines repatriate stranded passengers and get delayed freight deliveries to their destinations, he said.
Siim Kallas also warned EU member states not to grant airlines state aid other than loans at market rates or guarantees as a way of improving their immediate cash flow problems.
Kallas said: “This must be granted on the basis of uniform criteria established at the European level. It cannot be used to allow unfair assistance to companies which is not directly related to the crisis.”
Mr Kallas has called an emergency meeting of EU transport ministers May 4 to fast-track the wholesale reform of Europe’s fragmented air traffic system.
“Europe needs a single regulator for a single European sky,” he said, adding that the first elements of the so-called Single European Sky could be in place by the end of 2010. [via Daily Telegraph (UK)]