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Easyjet trial new technology to detect Ash Clouds

NEW technology that could minimise future disruption to planes from volcanic ash was unveiled today by budget airline easyJet. The carrier will be the first airline to trial a new "weather radar for ash" system called AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector).

The system involves placing infrared technology on to an aircraft to supply images to both the pilots and an airline's flight control centre.

These images will enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 62 miles (100 kilometres) ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes between 5,000ft and 50,000ft.

This will allow pilots to make adjustments to the plane's flight path to avoid any ash cloud.

Millions of passengers had their travel plans wrecked when airlines had to scrap thousands of flights in recent weeks due to Icelandic volcanic ash.


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Airlines want compensation for Ash Cloud closures!

Heathrow Airport was granted permission for more night landings

Heathrow Airport was granted permission for more night landings

Airlines want compensation for the volcanic ash disruption, estimated to have cost the industry more than £1bn.

Ryanair has now said it will abide by EU rules and and pay for stranded passengers' food and accommodation.

The Civil Aviation Authority has rejected accusations that it was too slow in reopening UK airspace.

Almost all flights across Europe are expected to go ahead on Thursday.

Huge numbers of passengers stranded by the flight ban are still finding their own way back, however.

Ryanair U-turn

Many airlines are angry at the length of the airspace ban and its knock-on cost to them.

In addition to seeking compensation, some - including Ryanair - had objected to paying the hotel and food bills of stranded passengers.

If governments close airspace, the governments should reimburse passengers, not the airlines
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary

Under EU regulations, if a flight is cancelled then those passengers flying on European carriers in or out of the EU have the right to a refund or to be re-routed.

If passengers choose to be re-booked by their airline, the law require carriers to cover passengers' reasonable expenses.

Earlier, budget airline Ryanair said reimbursement would be limited to the original air fare paid by each passenger.

However it later issued a statement saying it would comply with the EU rules and would refund passengers for "reasonably-receipted expenses".

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary told the BBC passengers would not receive extra compensation for the inconvenience and the airline would seek to recover its costs - up to 40m euros (£35m) - from the EU "which closed the airspace".

Mr O'Leary also said he would continue to lobby for a change to the "grossly unfair" rules.

"They're not designed for European governments closing the entire European airspace for seven days," he said. "If governments close airspace, the governments should reimburse passengers, not the airlines".

'Against the law'

Easyjet said the flight ban had cost it £50m, including paying for 15,000 hotel rooms.

Oliver Aust from the airline told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme it will compensate passengers but said that the law was "unfair".

The EC have indicated they will compensate airlines and British holiday companies in the same way that the American government compensated airlines in America after 9/11
Sir Richard Branson

"We accept it is in the legislation but the legislation is not fit for purpose - it was drafted to deal with overbooking, it was never meant to make airlines the insurer of last resort in a case of natural disaster," he said.

Some flight-only travellers with Tui - which owns Thomson - whose original flights were cancelled are also being told they would have to pay the difference if an alternative flight is more expensive.

But the official airline watchdog in the UK, the Air Transport Users Council, said passengers should not be asked to pay more money.

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Full story via BBC