Volcano costing Canadian air industry $4M per day
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, April 19, 2010 3:49PM EDT
The cancellation of flights into Europe because of fears over volcanic ash could be costing the Canadian air travel industry about $4 million a day, one expert estimates.
Airline analyst Robert Kokonis calculates that Air Canada could be losing about $3 million per day, while tour operator Air Transat could lose about $750,000.
Canadian airports and travel agencies are also losing money, as would-be travellers to Europe see their flights cancelled, Kokonis adds.
He estimates that after five days of disruptions, nearly $20 million has been lost in Canada's travel industry so far. If disruptions continue, there could even be layoffs at airlines and airports because of reduced service.
Continued disruptions are possible. AMEC meteorologist Stephen Green noted in an interview with CTV's Canada AM Monday morning that the last time this Icelandic volcano blew its top, the eruption lasted 14 months. He notes most volcanologists expect the current eruption to last two or three months.
The Canadian Meteorological Centre says there is a low probability that the ash will disrupt flights in Canada, noting satellite imagery doesn't suggest ash presence in high concentrations.
"Based on satellite imagery and reports from pilots, there's no evidence of any significant amount of volcanic ash west of a line that runs through Iceland," Richard Hogue, the centre's director of national prediction operations, told The Canadian Press.
"Reports suggest that the volcano has really calmed down. For now the news is good."
A number of flights in and out of St. John's International Airport were delayed or cancelled Monday morning, but that was due to heavy fog, not the threat of the ash, airport authorities said.
Air Canada has now resumed its normal flight schedule, while WestJet reports one cancellation due to an aircraft maintenance issue. Porter Airlines scrubbed one flight last night over worries about ash, but no further cancellations were expected Monday.
Green says the weather conditions that are pulling the ash over the Atlantic are rare and not expected to change for at least a week.
"That is very, very rare for surface level winds to be dragging particulates west across the Atlantic," Green noted to CTV's Canada AM from St. John's.
He explained that a large high pressure system has settled over Greenland along with two low pressure systems, one over the Azores and another one south of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The winds blowing between the high and lows are acting like a vacuum cleaner, taking the ash cloud and dragging it against the jet stream.
"This weather pattern is going to persist for up to a week, at a minimum," he said. "So we can expect the ash to come across the Atlantic for up to a week."
He says it's a near certainty that the plume will bring ash across the eastern seaboard, including through the New England states and eastern Quebec. But it remains to be seen what kind of concentrations of volcanic debris will be inside the cloud.
"If the concentrations are sufficient to disrupt flight operations, it has the potential to disrupt flights in the eastern seaboard of the U.S.," Green said.