European countries' suspension of flights due to the Icelandic volcano eruption was a sign of panic rather than any real threat, the head of the Russian air transport regulator said on Wednesday.
"We did not impose any restrictions because we understood that this was caused by panic," said Alexander Neradko, the head of the Russian Federal Air Transportation Agency.
The eruption on the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland began on April 14 and airspace all over central and northern Europe was closed due to the presence of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere.
However, the head of the Russian air transport regulator said the presence of the ash in the atmosphere had not been "proved by any instrumental methods."
In the first days after the volcano eruption, Russian pilots reported that an ash cloud was en route to Petrozavodsk in northwest Russia, but later it turned out that it was a thundercloud.
No other reports of ash in the atmosphere were received, Neradko said.
Thousands of travelers were left stranded and the airlines are estimated to have lost $1.7 billion over the disruption to air traffic, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Neradko said Russian air companies could receive compensation for their losses due to the disruption.
Valery Okulov, deputy transport minister, also said there were no obvious reasons for closing airports in Europe.
MOSCOW, April 28 (RIA Novosti)
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