UK says airlines should get volcanic ash cash aid

* Brown says airlines, individuals should be compensated

* Navy to help bring stranded Britons home

* Discussions ongoing with Spain to create “hub”

By Michael Holden

LONDON, April 19 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain said on Monday European
funds should be made available to compensate airlines and other
travel firms who have lost millions of dollars in revenue from
the closure of airspace because of a volcanic ash cloud.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown also said Britain would deploy
three Royal Naval ships including an aircraft carrier to bring
home citizens stranded abroad by the closure of much of European
airspace because of the plume of ash from an Icelandic volcano.

“I believe that this is one of the most serious transport
disruptions that we have faced,” Brown told reporters.

“It’s got financial consequences as well as human
consequences and we will do everything in our power to make sure
all the arrangements are in place to help people where possible
to get back home.”

Brown, facing an election on May 6, said he had held talks
with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso about
helping out airlines and travel companies who have suffered from
the airspace paralysis.

Analysts say the 5-day disruption had cost Britain’s
airlines well over 100 million pounds ($160.4 million) so far.
[ID:nLDE63I07E].

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated
the economic impact to be greater than the 2001 Sept. 11 attacks
with revenue losses reaching $250 million a day. [ID:nLDE63I0GA]

“I am very clear that this is a shared European problem and
he (Barroso) is very clear that there should be a shared
European approach and I hope that we can see the European
solidarity fund or other funds used to help not just airlines
but people who have been stranded,” Brown said.

“It’s the biggest challenge to our aviation transport system
for many, many years. We’re conscious that we will have to look
at the financial position not just of airlines but of associated
companies.”

Brown also said the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and two
other vessels would be deployed to help, including one which
would be sent to Spain to bring home soldiers returning from
Afghanistan.

The British travel agents’ association ABTA has estimated
that about 150,000 Britons in total have stranded abroad.

Extra ferries and train services through the Channel Tunnel
were also running to help bring back holidaymakers and those on
business trips.

Britain is also in discussion with Spain about creating a
“hub” in Madrid to bring Britons home from Europe and beyond.

“We have large numbers of travellers who are caught in Asia
and America and the main route home that is available at the
moment is through the airports that are open in Europe and that
is in Spain.

Brown said he had held talks with Spanish Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

“He has offered in principle the use of Spanish airports as
a hub for bringing people back to Britain.”

“We are very conscious that speed is of the essence here. We
hope to have reached agreement with the Spanish in the next few
hours about what can be done.”
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(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir)

UK says airlines should get volcanic ash cash aid