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Passengers at Nice airport in southern France. Wait after left stranded by volcanic ash -- April 20, 2010. - 


Steve Chiotakis: More flights are taking off in Europe this morning as that cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland becomes less of threat. But now, the question of who pays looms on the horizon. From London, Marketplace European correspondent Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: The skies are now open over Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. Other countries like France and Germany are planning a phased reopening later today. But the London airports remain closed. Another new cloud of ash is said to be headed towards England.

The cost to the airlines has been stratospheric: $1.5 billion according to Giovanni Bisignani, head of the main aviation trade body. He claims that closing a wide swathe of north European airspace was an overreaction, based purely on computer modeling:

Giovanni Bisignani: Europe was using a theoretical, mathematical approach. That is not what we need. We needed some tests, we needed some test flights, going in the atmosphere, assess the level of ashes and take decisions.

Eleven British airlines have now demanded compensation from the U.K. government. Lawyers forecast a raft of lawsuits from airlines and companies that depend on air travel to move their goods.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.