Virgin Atlantic boss, Sir Richard Branson, has hit out against last week’s decision to declare a blanket ban of flights over Europe because of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. He claims that there was no danger posed to flights, and has even suggested that Britain’s government should foot the bill for the disruption.

IATA, the airline industry body, says that the cost to airlines of nearly a week’s disruption will come to well over £1 billion. Speaking in London, Branson said that the decision to ground fleets was the government’s, and that the government should now be looking at how it can compensate airlines for that decision.

Branson added that experts, as well as his own engineers, had been telling him all through the crisis that there was no danger to aircraft unless they actually flew directly over the top of the erupting volcano. He said that there were enough corridors avoiding the volcanic ash through which to fly planes, and that the government had clearly over reacted by closing the skies.

Airlines are now struggling to get passengers home.  A number of carriers have called on customers who do not desperately need to fly, but who have booked seats, to give them up to passengers who have found themselves stranded. Virgin Atlantic said that they have already received a number of calls from passengers who are prepared to do so. British Airways is also asking passengers who hold tickets for long haul flights before May 2 to consider giving them up to stranded customers.