Airlines appealed to passengers to give up their seats to stranded travelers on Saturday, as carriers across Europe attempted to clear a backlog of thousands of tourists grounded by the ash cloud spewed from Iceland's volcano.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic appealed for passengers booked on long-haul flights next week to consider giving up their seat to make way for travelers still stuck following flight disruptions.
A week of airspace closures caused by ash clouds gusting from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano caused the worst breakdown in civil aviation in Europe since World War II. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled and airlines are on track to lose over $2 billion.
"It's a very difficult situation and we've had to deal with a lot of complexity, aircraft stuck in different parts of the world, crew stuck in different parts of the world," said British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh.
Flight authorities in Europe say the majority of the continent is now free of volcanic ash, and most airline services are operating as normal. Several carriers said they are laying on extra flights to help the stranded return home.
Iceland's civil protection agency said Eyjafjallajokull was still spewing ash, but that the plume was now around 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) high not large enough to reach jet streams. Winds are now gusting from the south east away from Europe, said Olof Baldursdottir, of the civil protection agency.