With the Airline industry now losing an estimated Â£165 million a day, the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) after close liaison with the Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has continued restrictions on the use of UK airspace. There are severe concerns that the ash could return to its original liquid lava form on contact with the hot engine parts and cause engine failure. According to a recent Associated press report several F-16 and F-18 military fighters suffered engine damage after patrolling European airspace. Glass-like deposits were found on interior engine parts such as the turbines requiring expensive overhauls.
From a statement on the NATS website today:
“Latest information from the Met Office shows that the situation is variable. The information shows that Scottish airports should be available from 0700 (local time) and more airspace over England may become available from 1300 (local time) although not as far south as the main London airports. …… We are working closely with Government, airports and airlines, and airframe and aero engine manufacturers to get a better understanding of the effects of the ash cloud and to seek solutions.”
But airline operators are now suffering financially. BA is understood to be losing Â£15-Â£20 million every single day. The BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh has called the blanket ban into question after personally taking part in a test flight over the week-end. Peter Long, the Chief Executive of TUI Travel said it had cost his company Â£20 million so far and the costs would now rack up at between Â£5 and Â£6 million a day.
The business risk to the airlines is now immense and the Association of European Airlines says it expects bankruptcies to follow. BA and TUI have called on government (the taxpayer) to compensate them for losses.
The government has ordered the MOD in the form of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the assault ship HMS Ocean to sail Dunkirkesque to help retrieve the estimated 100,000 Britons from Europe. But even this appears to be a somewhat misguided decision as it is unclear where they would go and whether they are actually needed. A former chairman of the Cobra crisis committee, Colonel Richard Kemp says in the Times “I would also question whether the Royal Navy warships really exist for this type of mission and indeed whether such as task would be contemplated outside an election.”
With the airlines calling for compensation, will compensation also be given to those people who were forced to spend a fortune in repatriating themselves? Or will that be seen as the result of an 'Act of God'? I see the former being quietly compensated after a 'period of deliberation', whilst the latter are left to lick their financial wounds alone. In true humanitarian fashion, many stranded Britons are reporting that they have been effectively held to ransom as train, taxi, travel and hotel companies take advantage of the situation and charge exorbitant fees for helping them.
With all our talk of how man has affected the planet it takes a quick belch for Mother Nature to remind us all of who is really in charge. This huge ash cloud will also presumably throw all climate change calculations into disarray.