The fall-out from the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano has been far reaching.
The initial response to limit physical risk was of course the correct one. No-one wants to see aircraft falling from the sky, engines full of volcanic ash reconverted to lava from the heat of the jets.
But now, as the UK government looks set to bring the Royal Navy to the rescue, airline businesses are now looking to their business risk.
This incident is costing airlines some Â£130 million every single day and is believed to be more disruptive than the post 9/11 lock-down. Over the weekend 30 test flights were made, one BA flight carried their Chief Executive Willie Walsh, to assess the dangers. The Association of European Airlines, which has BA and Virgin amongst its 36 member operators, has called for an “immediate reassessment” of the situation. They claim that the current ban on airspace usage over 20 countries did not compare to reactions in other parts of the world.
With the volcano possibly set to continue ash production for days, maybe even weeks the cloud may remain over the UK and other affected countries for some time to come.
Should this continue then at some stage it will be tempting for the authorities to put the business risk ahead of the physical risk and allow flights to re-commence. Otherwise we may see many airlines going bankrupt. Would we then see the taxpayer being forced to step in to keep them afloat (airborne)? Or do we let them fail and hope someone else will step in to pick the pieces up?
Not only is there the matter of immediate financial losses. Many companies and families may right now be reassessing their flight plans over the coming months and cancelling or holding back on bookings until this is completely cleared up.
There are also other business implications. How many deals have been put on hold because key decision makers cannot get together?
This may hit many on a business and personal basis. But it may also give many of them the chance to sit back and appraise the real worth of air travel to them.