UPDATE: British Airways officials say the lock down of air space - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: British Airways officials say the lock down of air space, airports went too far

AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The electronic board at Europe's biggest airports are showing about 80 percent of flights on schedule today.

They are also pretty full. With more than 100,000 flights scrapped worldwide in the last week thanks to the ash cloud emitted by an Icelandic volcano, airlines today began filling vacant seats with travelers who have been stranded for days.

Airlines say their losses have topped $2 billion. The International Air Transport Association says economic fallout is worse than the three-day worldwide shutdown that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Still, scientists at a Swiss institute say an analysis of air samples collected over Zurich last weekend show the safety concerns were warranted.

And they say the volcano could be getting more dangerous. One scientist says the composition of the magma is changing and could become more explosive. If that continues or a second nearby volcano erupts, Peter Ulmer says it could last for weeks and be similar to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii in 79 A.D.

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LONDON (AP) -- Aviation officials in Europe say their decision to reopen airports where thousands of stranded travelers had camped out was based on science, and not on pressure from airlines.

But British Airways upped the stakes with a direct challenge to the shutdown of London's airports Tuesday. It announced it had more than 20 flights in the air, and wanted to land them in London -- where the airports were supposed to be closed at least until Wednesday.

Radar tracking sites showed several BA planes circling in holding patterns over England late yesterday. And then came the somewhat surprising announcement that the air space was being reopened.

A passengers on one of those flights -- the first one to land at Heathrow after the reopening -- says the plane circled for about two hours. She says passengers were told they'd be going to London -- and then were told that the landing would be somewhere in Europe -- and then that it would be in Ireland.

The chief executive of British Airways says it had become clear that the lock down of air space and airports went too far.

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BERLIN (AP) -- Airliners are gradually reoccupying the skies over Europe after massive disruptions due to ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland.

Germany's air traffic controllers say they're gradually reopening the country's airspace today. London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest, has also reopened, delivering rays of hope to stranded travelers.

Officials say it will be weeks before all stranded travelers can be brought home but with planes flying again passengers have a reason for hope.

The International Air Transport Association says disruptions to European air travel from the volcanic ash cloud have cost the industry at least $1.7 billion.

Air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said it expects at least 15,000 flights to go ahead across Europe. Generally, about 28,000 flights are scheduled on Wednesdays across Europe.

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BERLIN (AP) -- The International Air Transport Association says disruptions to European air travel from the volcanic ash cloud have cost the industry at least $1.7 billion.

IATA says airlines lost revenues of $400 million each day during the first three days of grounding.

The group's chief executive says the scale of the disruption was worse than after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Giovanni Bisignani told a news conference in Berlin that at one stage 29 percent of global aviation and 1.2 million passengers a day were affected by the airspace closure ordered by governments fearful of the risk ash clouds posed to airplanes.

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BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's air traffic controllers say they are gradually reopening the country's airspace after days of closures and limited activity.

The government agency Deutsche Flugsicherung said Wednesday it will gradually start reopening the skies for regular flights during the morning.

"There is a good chance that the airspace above Germany and all international airports will remain available until late in the evening," the agency said.

Airlines were already being permitted to operate a limited number of flights to and from all airports -- up to 800 flights in total Tuesday -- under so-called visual flight rules.

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