Most European flights resume

The skies over Europe are once again filling up with planes, but passengers can still expect headaches.

About 75% of flights are scheduled to run today and all major airports are reported open, but airlines warn there will be significant delays and cancellations as they try to get back into gear and deal with a huge backlog of passengers. Eurocontrol, the agency that controls air traffic in Europe, says it will be several days before the situation gets back to normal, even assuming no new eruptions occur.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has reduced its output to about 20 percent of its previous levels and changes in wind patterns mean Europe will not get hit as hard as before. Vulcanologists point out the situation could change at any moment, however.

The ban was lifted mainly because several test flights showed that jet engines have a greater tolerance for ash than was previously suspected. The previous “zero tolerance” policy has been replaced.

On a personal note, my wife, who’s been stranded in England, is scheduled to return on a British Airways flight this afternoon. I haven’t told our four-year-old son because I don’t want to disappoint him if her flight is canceled. I suggest this for anyone in a similar situation. We’ll also be studying the rights of passengers stranded by the volcano. According to BBC personal finance reporter Kevin Peachey, British Airways should have paid for all of her accommodation and food, but they only paid for the first night and never communicated with her or the hotel after that. Complaints from travelers will be a major problem for the airlines in the weeks and months ahead.