Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 13:06 UK

Europe's air traffic 'back to normal'

BA check-in desk, O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
Airports worldwide are starting to clear the backlog of flights

European air traffic has returned to normal, with nearly all restrictions imposed during the volcanic ash cloud crisis now lifted, officials say.

The European air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, said it expected 29,000 flights on Friday. There were 27,284 on Thursday.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said "Europe's airspace is getting back to normal operating capacity".

He also called for "a single European regulator for a single European sky".

"The absence of a single European regulator for air traffic control made it very difficult to respond to this crisis," he said, lamenting Europe's "fragmented patchwork of 27 national airspaces".

A statement on Eurocontrol's website at 1230 Brussels time (1030 GMT) said "almost all European airspace is available, with the exception of part of northern Scotland".

"Since yesterday... traffic across Europe has been back to normal levels, as almost all European airspace has been available and almost all restrictions have been lifted."

Ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano triggered a shutdown of European airspace last week, paralysing many airports and stranding hundreds of thousands of tourists and business travellers.

map showing ash cloud forecast april 23

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