Airlines are calling for changes to the European Commission's passenger rights rules to make an exception for the costs associated with feeding and accommodating passengers stranded as a result of the volcanic ash cloud.

As the rules stand, financial responsibility for looking after stranded passengers lies with the airlines in the same way that it would in the event of any delayed or cancelled flight. But Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association, believes the extraordinary nature of the volcanic ash cloud should be taken into account.

"This crisis is an act of God - completely beyond the control of airlines," he says. "The regulations were never meant for such extraordinary situations. It is urgent that the European Commission finds a way to ease this unfair burden."

IATA is also calling for government compensation to help airlines recover the costs incurred by the ash cloud disruption. The EC's competition bureau says it could put together a compensation package similar to that which was made available to airlines following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

This would include criteria stating that compensation will be awarded in a non-discriminatory way to all airline companies of a member state, and that compensation will be "limited to the real costs of the traffic interruption".

EC competition vice-president Joaquin Almunia says compensation guidance could be "rapidly updated" as and when member states applied for aid. Almunia adds that the EC would then be able to "rapidly assess the requests". However, as of yet no member state has made a request for aid.

Source: Flight International