Airliners were gradually returning to the skies over Europe Wednesday after massive disruptions caused by an erupting volcano in Iceland.
The news comes after thousands of flights were cancelled when ash from the volcano filled the skies.
The Headaches Continue
There was an eruption of joy when word came that the skies over Heathrow's airport were open again. People flying home to the U.S. were happy as well.
Although Europe's busiest airport has reopened for business, the gridlock created by Iceland's volcano is far from over.
The flight ban was lifted after officials analyzed data from test flights and concluded that engines could fly through low density ash. However, scientists said the volcano could continue to erupt, and there is now a threat of eruption from another nearby volcano in Iceland. Officials are taking precautions.
"There may well be cases in the days and weeks ahead where we see further volcanic ash eruptions," said Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways. "And if that means on safety grounds we should suspend flying, we will do so."
Analysts said it will take a while to clear the backlog and get all stranded travelers home again.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that the volcanic ash crisis has cost airlines more than $1.7 billion. Giovanni Bisignani, the head of the International Air Transport Association, said it would likley take three years for the industry to recover the lost revenues.