The airline industry has branded the government’s response to the Iceland volcanic ash problem as a ‘shambles’. They are putting ministers under pressure to explain why it took the UK so long to lift the flying ban.

David Cameron has called for a swift inquiry and Willie Walsh, CEO of BA has demanded compensation from the government over government ‘dithering’.

In government defence Gordon Brown said that passenger safety is paramount and to lift the ban prior to receiving definitive information on the dangers would be seen as foolhardy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Had this event been of the normal foreseeable nature such as leaves or snow falling then recriminations of this sort would be easily justified. But we were in unknown territory, so stepping cautiously is the order of the day.

That this has caused so much expense to the airlines shows us that they were not insured for such an eventuality. They and the insurance companies had obviously then not even considered this as a business risk. Nor one supposes does any passenger insurance cover for such an occurrence over our airspace.

With that in mind and after years of airline operating experience behind them, how do the airline and tour operators have the gall to lay the blame at the door of the authorities who just want to keep passengers safe? Especially the ones that are not compensating passengers in accordance with EU regulations.

Had the government bowed to airline pressure and an accident subsequently occurred the airline operators would very quickly have pointed the finger at government and said ‘blame them they told us it was safe, we just fly the aeroplanes’.

Where peoples’ lives are at stake the concerns of physical risk far outweigh those of business risk. Even if this means business failure to some.

Related Article: The airlines: physical risk versus business risk

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