British Government Criticized For Travel Chaos
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.
ROB GIFFORD: One of the critics is the chief executive of British Airways, Willie Walsh.
WILLIE WALSH: I don't believe it was necessary to impose a blanket ban on all UK airspace last Thursday. My personal belief is that we could have safely continued operation for a period of time.
GIFFORD: But Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis yesterday admitted that the overall approach of regulators across Europe might have been too careful.
ANDREW ADONIS: It's fair to say that we were too cautious - but we, being the international safety regulation community. Now why did it take six days for the regulators to reach their conclusions? The answer is they needed a good deal of experience and testing to see what was, in fact, the impact of the ash.
GIFFORD: The whole situation has highlighted a uniquely European problem that the EU is composed of a patchwork of 27 separate air spaces. Eurocontrol, the inter- governmental organization for air security and navigation in Brussels, has to contend itself with coordinating national decisions rather than overseeing them. Head of Virgin Airways Richard Branson said, in some ways, this crisis may push Europe into getting its act together.
RICHARD BRANSON: I don't necessarily blame the government for a blanket ban. It was the safe option to take. I think in the future, they will learn from it, and I don't think we'll ever, ever see a blanket ban again. I think that there'll be safe ways of dealing with this which won't cause the whole of Europe to get closed down.
GIFFORD: Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.
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