Richard Branson, the boss of airline Virgin Atlantic, hit out at the decision to ground flights due to volcanic ash from Iceland, saying there had been “no danger at all to flying”.
Branson also called on Britain’s government to pay compensation to airlines, who have been left at least 1.7 billion dollars out of pocket, according to the airline industry umbrella body IATA.
“This was very much a government decision to ground the planes and we would suggest that the government should compensate the industry,” Branson said in London.
“Behind the scenes, our engineers and all the experts were telling us that there was no danger at all to flying and that the danger would have been if we had flown close to Iceland through the volcano.”
He added there were “plenty of corridors” which airlines could have flown through and said: “I think the government has accepted that there was overreaction.
“A blanket ban of the whole of Europe was not the right decision.”
Clouds of ash from an Icelandic volcano caused a week of massive disruption and left hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded as many European countries closed their airspace, only reopening earlier this week.
Virgin Atlantic said it is receiving “many calls” from passengers offering to give up their seats for passengers who have been stranded by the volcanic ash.
It added that this will be possible without penalty for some flights subject to certain conditions.
Meanwhile, British Airways is asking customers with long haul bookings up to May 2 to consider giving up their seats to help stranded passengers get home.