It all started out as a bit of a joke really. Those Icelandic chaps up to their usual jolly japes, this time activating a volcano buried under 200m of glacial ice to see how high the explosion would go. Nothing to adventurous for them, all part of being Icelandic. When you spend your life cooped up on a barren rock it’s important to let off a little steam.
As we now know though, this little adventure might just turn out to be one of the biggest news stories of the year as the disruption to air traffic exceeds that of 9/11. At last count there were 10,000 airports closed throughout Europe and 23 million people stranded in one place or another. (stats from DIYstats.com) Just looking at my own personal connections –
- A mate of mine is stranded at a hotel near the airport in Shanghai, which would be bad enough without the added frustration that his boss is not a Formula 1 fan and so has arranged factory visits instead of tickets to the Chinese Grand Prix (won by two Brits which must make it triple annoying!).
- I spoke on Friday to a client in London who sits next to their travel department. He says they have being going potty trying to work it all out and have been shocked by how the prices of other means of transport have been skyrocketing, trains in particular – website goes offline for a moment and when it comes back the prices have doubled or worse!
- Another client was stranded in Munich end of last week and unable to return to the UK. He stayed in Munich until Saturday in the hope of clear skies but when it was clear nothing was happening he joined forces with other strandees and took a taxi to Brussels followed by another taxi (that had come over from the UK) from there to Heathrow. We estimate from adding up all the costs of this long story that it cost him over a thousand quid to get home!
- Some of my team unable to get to a meeting in Bucharest although not a problem because nobody else can get there either.
I confess I’m a bit confused by it all though. I saw a graphic that I have now lost showing how a plane looks after it flies through a cloud of volcanic ash. Bit of a mess really, all covered in grey crap and hurtling toward the ground with dead engines and pilots recording things like “Oh my God, a volcanic ash cloud!!!”. It was scary stuff and so you can understand why NATS are so cautious. On the other hand, I’ve been watching Russian and Ukrainian jets landing in Krakow and reading about how KLM, Lufthansa, Air France, Air Berlin and Ukraine Air have done test flights with absolutely no problems and so are now demanding the skies be opened up again.
“The eruption of the Icelandic volcano is not an unprecedented event and the procedures applied in other parts of the world for volcanic eruptions do not appear to require the kind of restrictions that are presently being imposed in Europe,”
I’m no aviation expert but here’s a suggestion – fly a bit lower if you’re really worried about the monster at 10,000 m! Whenever I fly, there does appear to be an awful lot of spare room between the ground and normal cruising altitude.
People are stranded. Airlines are losing around $200 million a day and some of them must be really close to disappearing altogether. I hope this isn’t someone’s idea of a joke. By all accounts this volcano has a habit of blowing for nearly two years solid, plus there’s its sister volcano, Bjork, that has a habit of blowing just after Eyaflippinjoker has done and at about 10 times the strength so unless we want to got back to the days of low flying props we really do need to get a grip on this volcanic ash gig.
Is this another Swine Flu? Something with a tiny chance of actually killing people that has been blown out of proportion by Elf n Safety jobsworths?
One last thing, is there any way we can move Iceland somewhere else? It’s starting to annoy me.