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In defence of the volcano

Robert Peston | 09:37 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

The closure of much of Europe's airspace is beginning to bite in many ways.

TUI Travel, the leading holiday travel group which owns Thomson and First Choice, has become the first company to estimate the losses it is incurring from the grounding of flights. Up to yesterday, it says the costs have been £20m - and that the daily expense is between £5m and £6m.

You'll find it increasingly difficult to buy roses, since most of them this time of year are flown from Kenya.

And you may find, like the family Peston, that your kids are being given the day off school, because substantial numbers of teachers can't get home from their holidays.

But it is time that someone defended the battered reputation of the erupting Icelandic volcano.

Because all reports to the contrary, it isn't the volcano that has grounded our aircraft; it's the weather that has done the damage.

Or at least that's the view of the airline bosses to whom I've been speaking.

They point out that there are other live volcanoes in the world. But when they belch out ash, they don't bring air transport to a standstill.

The airlines tell me they are quite habituated to flying round ash clouds.

So why is this cloud apparently so much bigger and more dangerous?

Well it's because of the unusual weather conditions that are causing it to spread over some of the busiest flying lanes in the world.

Also, and here's what may tickle a few of you, the official view of the extent and location of the cloud, its geography, is a computer simulation by the Met Office.

Airline executives can't resist telling me that this is the same Met Office which last year told us to prepare for that blistering BBQ summer which turned out to be something rather cold and damp.

Now the accuracy of the Met's ash map is being improved by hard data gathered by observation planes.

But it seems highly unlikely that it can ever be 100% accurate.

Which is why the airlines are desperate to find some other fundamental solution that would give them - and their passengers - confidence that the closure of airspace is a one-off event.

Whether that's fitting special filters to engines or developing a contingency for low-level flying, what they say they need is some system that will reassure customers that any reopening of airspace won't be temporary.

As I've repeatedly mentioned, most airlines are only just recovering from the worst recession in their history.

They're therefore deeply alarmed at the very real possibility that many people will simply choose not to fly either for business or leisure, if there's a risk that they could find themselves trapped abroad by a renewed grounding of aircraft.

Any significant dent to the recovery in passenger numbers could undermine the confidence of some airlines' creditors and precipitate a new spate of bankruptcies.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    First Northern Rock & now Volcanic Rock.

  • Comment number 2.

    Apparently in the aircraft incident in Indonesia which has caused this blanket-ban, the plane flew right over the volcano crater at night.
    Our southern airports are 1100 miles from this volcano.
    All airlines have experience of flying in volcanic areas....they do it all the time.
    The jet test flights should be resumed immmediately....just fly around in this thin ash for 12 hours without damage, and the restrictions can be re-assessed.
    Our biggest industries, (and NATS), need some answers.....constant testing please.

  • Comment number 3.

    So, we should expect the new insurance fee by with the cute name "Volcano". Is that right, Robert?

    Whereas, if we were not restricted by the monetary system i.e. profit before safety, we should have been developing geothermal energy power to fire up high speed trains. And travel safely and in comfort.

    But unless we get rid of the monetary system, we are rather doomed to pursue the most profitable solution, which often are the least effective and will be falling as easier victims to natural occurrences like volcano eruptions.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hard to see much support now for a further strike at BA.

    Looks like the management team win.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think that the involved parties are just hoping the other side will blink first. Neither the airlines nor the nations restricting their respective airspace will want to be held to account for any jet engine failure. It seems to me that the inevitable outcome of our blame culture is that we will have to wait for the volcano to stop erupting or the wind to shift to unlock the system. And it's gone on so long now that the lawsuits will follow for loss of income if the ban is lifted before nature has had enough.

  • Comment number 6.

    Any truth in the story that Goldman Sachs initiated the eruption so they could start shorting airline stocks?

  • Comment number 7.

    And with Labour and Unite making noises about 'finishing BA' if they don't agree to their demands once flights resume it'll be interesting times in the airline industry.

  • Comment number 8.

    "defence of the volcano" - a silly title!

    Volcanoes are natural phenomena - you might as well defend oceans or mountains.

    We are not omnipotent; we are not Canute who strived (and failed!) to turn back the sea; we are part of the fauna of the planet and it will do well to be reminded of this fact.

    The arrogance of our species often gets out-of-hand and we believe we are omnipotent - but we are wrong and you are wrong to think that business can be protected from natural 'events' and you are also wrong to support the pleading of the business leader for a public bail out - why should the vast majority pay out for a few stranded travellers and a very very few huge businesses?

    The travellers will get themselves back and, if they are patient, they will not pay over the odds for travel. Sitting in the UK, enjoying the silence (and feeling immensely smug! although I know I shouldn't) my advice is to enjoy as best you can the opportunities that these natural events bring to your holiday or business trip. Positive thinking is the best thing to do and take advantages of the opportunities for meeting people and going to places that are new.

    It is sunny over most of Europe and many Europeans will help you as there is the feeling that they could have been in the same situation too. Get to know the people you meet, treat them with civility and with kindness and they will help you in your adversity, after all, culturally, we are all very similar.

  • Comment number 9.

    I Have lots of sympathy with folk prevented from going on or coming back from holiday as many families will lose their holiday / their money or both.

    As far as business trips go, I do wonder, as you eluded to in a previous article, whether some organisations will actually get more value for money as the trips for some of these execs will be cut and the business themselves will wonder if they actually need the exec at all.

    This clamour to get up in the skies by the air industry is all well and good until the first ash related crash occurs then you can kiss goodnight to that industry for good.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just one more little reminder that our current way of life is completely unsustainable. Homo Sapiens has exploited a brief period of remarkable stability, climatically and geologically speaking, in the planet's history and we blithely assume it will always be so. Just wait until the next supervolcano explodes - anywhere - then we'll have a little bit more to worry about than the economy or getting home from holiday. Like staying alive.........

  • Comment number 11.

    Are airline executives really suggesting that, just because the Met Office can't always predict how rainy it will be in 3 months time, they also can't predict the wind direction tomorrow? Frankly this sort of forecast is a doddle in comparison, and from what I've seen, the UK Met Office seem to be in agreement with the other weather forecasters of Europe.

    Might these airline executives be the same ones who deny global warming is happening, since it would be even more inconvenient to their business model?

  • Comment number 12.

    Who wants to take the chance? Even on thin air with thin ash? Put back 22,000 fights per day in Europe all flying above 6 Km as jets need to do. How many per day will fall? One, two or more? Willie Walsh flight yesterday reminded me of that Tory Agriculture Minister feeding her daughter (not himself by the way...) hamburgers at the beginning of the Mad Cow crisis. Same insanity!
    Now flying lower will reduce their autonomy and double fuel costs, double ticket prices, halve flights, halve passengers new flight paths, longer routes, new training and radar/communications settings. So... what's the point?
    Jet air travel changed/ended last Thursday. It is not only goodbye BA or Ryan Air... it is goodbye Boeing, BAE, Airbus and many more. Back to the good old DC3 or Zeppelin.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you Mr Peston for being, as usual, the voice of sanity in a crazy situation. Not just because I agree with your summing up of the situation: I've been watching the direction of the winds for the past five days.

  • Comment number 14.

    Disastrous Banks. Transport-destroying volcanoes. What next from Iceland ? Iceland's misfortunes seem to pose a greater danger to European capitalism than the Soviet Union ever did.

  • Comment number 15.

    The Finnish air force flew a couple of F18s into the ash cloud. The borescope pictures showed quite a mess inside the engines.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    The key phrase in this article is 'people will simply choose not to fly' ie it is a matter of choice, there is no need for air travel of any sort. Before long it is only going to be available to the super rich as the cost of fuel (and therefore everything else) become prohibitive. So here is a perfect opportunity to try a world without flight. Meetings can be held by video conference so no business travel required. (That apparently will kill off the airlines as thats where the profit comes from) Food should be grown and consumed locally. Roses should be a treat to be enjoyed in season not a cheap quick solution to the gift problem when visiting frieds or relatives. And so on.

    Lets not have any silly ideas about bailing out airlines and certainly not with my money. They are happy enough to take the profits when they are available so they should cope with losses, I thought that was how the wonderful free market stuff was supposed to work.

    We are told, correctly, that we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 80% that is down to just over a tonne per person per year. That is about a quarter of the amount needed to fly you to New York. So flying is definately going to be off the list soon, lets start now.

  • Comment number 18.

    It seems the test flights are going well.
    Why the delays?

  • Comment number 19.

    Apart from the spat as to whether flying is safe or not, which is difficult to say without accurate and specific data, there are some interesting business issues that arise out of this difficult situation, Robert.

    According to Lord Adonis and Simon Caldwell (Independent Travel Editor) all EU airlines are duty bound to arrange to get their passengers home and organise accomodation and subsistence for their passengers whilst they wait to be transported home. From the distressed travellers in foreign lands saying that their airline denies this responsibility, there is some shirking of the duty by EU airlines.

    These airlines are likely to get a class action against them if this is true, and some airlines will go to the wall because of the long lay off.

    The business model of the airlines is very specific and few have alternative transport methods within their portfolio with which to offer other ways of getting people from where they are stranded to where they want to be.

    Whereas it was not desireable for BA and AA to combine, as far as Virgin was concerned, with the weather bringing the volcanic ash to an airport near everyone in Europe, alternative methods of travel come into their own. Being able to charter ships, trains and coaches, or even smaller buses could make the difference between getting people home and running up even larger hotel and subsistence costs, as well as legal action.

    If the volcano may still be spewing its ash in a year's time, then these flexible travel plans will have to become more normal. As will flexibility of the airlines as to how passengers are transported.

    The communications issues are greatly feeding into the problem because of timing matters which are different for each of the protagonists.

    The Met office is only giving forecasts for up to a maximum of 5 days ahead. This gives a false sense of how long the problem might be there and almost indicates that it might be over in 5 days or before.

    Poor old Met Office! As you say it predicted the BBQ summer that was a washout and so has declined to give long range forecasts any more and has taken its ball away.

    NATS are giving daily updates of the extension of the no fly rule but only about 24 hours ahead. This gives a false impression of when it might end too, whereas what is really being said is that the earliest that the ban on flights might end is the time given for a further review.

    The insurers who provide travel insurance have two basic business models, the freebie policies which are 'gifts' within a credit card or bank product, and the fully costed individual policy. The claims on these policies are meant to fit in with the cover and duty of care of the airlines, and yet many passengers know nothing about it. That is a big communications gap and shown to be a yawning gap for many stranded passengers.

    That said, having a proper fully costed individual policy with a big european insurer did not help us at all when my husband got a DVT whilst sitting on a broken down train on the way between Gerona and Milan in temperatures of 40 deg C outside. Inside it was hotter. The aircon had stopped. The doors were not allowed to be opened.

    All classes in the train were full as a previous train had also broken down. When we got to Milan, en route to Verona, we had missed our connection. We got a taxi to Verona and telephoned the hotel whilst en route to tell our eta as well as organise a doctor's visit asap.

    The doctor diagnosed DVT and provided anti-coagulants stating that we should not fly, and that after 3 days we would be able to travel if we could stop every hour for my husband to have a brisk walk for 5 minutes.

    The insurers insisted we should fly. They got another doctor out who reported to us and to the insurers that we should not fly. The insurers said that my husband would be accompanied by two nurses and a doctor during the journey. The doctors said not to fly at all and that the doctor and nurses on the plane would just accompany him whilst he died!

    Ringing our GP at home he said that we should not fly on the basis of the Italian doctors' diagnosis. We rented a large car in Verona so that my husband could put his feet up. I drove home over 3 days, with 5 minute brisk walks every hour, and a good night's sleep each day.

    The insurers paid for the hire car, ferry, hotel stops on the way. But it was a battle to get them to agree that. Dealing with insurers is no mean feat.

  • Comment number 20.

    Can you address one outstanding issue, please: the behaviour of insurance companies who are renaging on travel policies by claiming that the eruption is an 'act of god' and thus outwith their terms. What the heck else does anyone insure against except events that are beyond their control?

    When are insurers going to be taken to task for their refusal to pay out?

  • Comment number 21.

    It is clear that physical sampling of the ash cloud is an urgent priority or the fainthearts will close down the whole British airline industry. The British Government has sadly developed a tendency towards massive overreaction to events...think of the swine flu that was was going kill 2 million people. I'm willing to bet that our own experts in timidity and overreaction will still be advocating a grounding of flights long after the rest of Europe has returned to work!

  • Comment number 22.

    For those hearing about BA flying in the skies and other airlines they are actually flying at around 40,000 ft , much closer to the ceiling a jet aircraft can go than usual in order to avoid the ash.

    What the PR department won't tell you is they were probably lucky and found a window in the ash to climb through which isn't going to be there for every flight.


    In August 2008 over France a Ryanair aircraft had to make an emergency landing after losing cabin pressure.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7582087.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7581492.stm


    If this were to happen now and an air plane had to go through an ash cloud the outcome could be disastrous.

    Profits must not come before safety!

  • Comment number 23.

    Why has no airline purchased insurance to cover the costs of not being able to fly through the ash? They've all purchased 'planes which have no tolerance to fly in these conditions and they knew that when they bought them. They are all aware of the risks and of the strict long-term policy of the VAAC ( a body i hadn't heard of before last week but one which walsh and o'leary certainly should be familiar) that no flights are permitted to fly through the ash. There is always a realistic risk of one of iceland's volcanos erupting and spewing ash in europe's direction even if it doesn't happen very often. It seems that the airlines must have been aware of the risks and actively chose to manage them by diong nothing and hoping it wouldn't happen on their watch rather than purchasing insurance-which would not have been that expensive as the chances of an eruption having the effect it is must be pretty low( but clearly not zero).

  • Comment number 24.

    Bonanza time for UK holidays resorts, already booked our holiday to Cornwall!

  • Comment number 25.

    Eh. I think the airlines are barking up the wrong tree here. The dust is largely being monitored on the basis of using sulphur dioxide as a proxy and this is being done by....NASA. So in fact the Met are only really forecasting the wind which is pretty easy over such short timeframes. I think it's fair to say that the data is accurate; NASA can measure gas concentrations on the other side of the solar system. So the dust is there and we can see that it is NOT moving.
    As for the airlines, they chose to fly either in gaps or underneath the dust. So they have no idea if they can fly through the dust. And there is considerable doubt as to whether they can make it across the Atlantic and then have enough fuel for an extended flight underneath the doubt. Clutching at straws. It's costing them money and so they are panicking. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about this situation as my 7-month pregnant wide is currently stuck in the US. But quibbling about the Met Office is daft. It's not cool when glass forms inside a jet engine and I'd rather not have them falling out of the sky. Besides, the airlines are at least saving a fortune on fuel costs currently!

  • Comment number 26.

    As disruptive as the current situation is the Soviet Union created a vehicle which would be perfect for this situation during the cold war. They called it the Ekranoplan (the beeb even have a article about it at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7638659.stm%29.
    The largest of these weighed over 500 tons, could carry over 350 passengers and travel 400mph at an optimum altitude of 20m (below the ash cloud I belive).
    Maybe Sir Stelios or Michael O'Leary should contact the Russian Goverment their bound to have a few still lying about.

  • Comment number 27.

    I thought it was because of the Ice - not just because its Volcanic ash?? This isnt all because this is a normal volcano. Its because the Ice Cap is causing pieces of "glass" to be part of the ash. Thats the danger NOT the fact its just Ash or the Weather - though thats not helping much...

  • Comment number 28.

    My son flew to Japan on a BA flight and is now stuck. BA tell him they will not pay for hotel or food during the delay. Is this correct?

  • Comment number 29.

    Airlines are now posturing ahead of legal action against the EU governments for lost income. Using terms such as "Airlines that have carried out test flights say planes showed no OBVIOUS damage after flying through the ash", note the use of the term obvious to negate liability, shows they are not really sure themselves.

    I suggest Willie Walsh and all the other airline bosses go up and do long term test flights, preferrable for the next year or so, with mid air refuelling to keep them out of the way for a while. Hope he takes a good cabin crew for company?

    Alternatively let people who want to fly sign a waiver that there is no liability on the airline and see if the major airlines start flying again?

    The airlines should not try to undermine a serious issue by posturing to pander to their shareholders.

  • Comment number 30.

    The short-term damage to business and the serious inconvenience to air travellers is of course regrettable. But there's a more fundamental lesson from this, which is that modern life, for all its clever technology, is extremely dependent on stable natural conditions. If mankind cannot cope with the absence of aeroplanes, what happens when an extreme burst of solar radiation destroys most of our electronic devices and communications? Or when war or natural disaster stops the flow of oil? 100 years ago none of these things would have changed societies much, but our so-called advanced society is built on a very fragile base. Maybe we now have a wake-up call and need to realise what risks there are in our ever-expanding dependence on technology and the associated exploitation of the Earth's resources.

  • Comment number 31.

    Fascinating that Robert points out that all this travel chaos is based on computer models. What if it turns out there has been no danger at all, which is quite possible ? With banking we had computer models which said everything was safe when they were hiding a disaster. Maybe these computer models are proposing a disaster when everything is safe ?
    Maybe the test flights in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands are actually showing all is OK in the same way as the seizing up of credit showed how poor the financial models were. Models, like economics itself, are great for post-event analysis, not for forecasting the results of unknown novelties.
    What are we going do do with all the Quants if they cannot model anything - either financial deposits or ash deposits ? As with Roger Rabbit... back to the science lab with all of them ?

  • Comment number 32.

    I notice that most almost all airports are closed or open only intermittently (as in Scotland) from the Polish border to the Alps/Tatras. So it's an EU problem... but the appropriate EU agency has no public communication. Of course you can get to NW Europe without flying and we may have to for some time.

  • Comment number 33.

    2 # Stevewo
    The Icelandic volcanic ash mix is different to others because of the Glacier effect.
    The authorities are right to continue the no fly ban, till we get a change of weather.
    Here in Somerset I can report during the last 3 days Volcanic ash has fallen daily. It is exactly like dry, fine, heavy, gritty cement powder dotted with minuscule sparkling bits.
    I don't think its the sort of stuff you would want to heat up in a jet engine. Check it out... wipe a finger across the top of a parked car.

  • Comment number 34.

    Safety before profit? wahahaahahaha ur deluded. Profit is God in our system, it is only the fear of losing multimillion dollar capital investments that stops them flying. Safety before profit? You make me laugh.

  • Comment number 35.

    Apparently the air quality is greatly improved without the aircraft. Good for asthma sufferers. Personally I would be happy to see the skies over my house without the pesky things for ever. I think we should build some high tech sailing ships for people who insist on going abroad. People have come to see air travel as a right, but the cost to the planet is huge.

  • Comment number 36.


    If only Gordon Brown was the Icelandic Prime Minister. He could have passed tough new laws imposing tough restrictions on volcanoes, with tough punishments for any volcanoes that erupted during a Designated Eruption Free Time.

  • Comment number 37.

    Did I miss something this weekend?

    A good day to bury bad news.....whilst the volcano rages the Goldman rats try to escape the sinking ship.

    A good month to call an election? - poor old Gordon can't even get that right.
    At least the markets are showing their efficiency - killing off the weak and unfortunate as they do best...

    BAY -3.62%
    AF -4.87%
    EZJ -3.93%

    At least in a planned Economy you could move all the spare airline staff to another more pressing industry (like the giant fan industry!) - can't do that with free markets - oh no, they need a bailout and further taxpayer subsidy of their private profits.

    BLACK SWAN
    BLACK SWAN
    BLACK SWAN

    Lets hope the clever people in the CDS markets have accounted for such an event in their premiums????

  • Comment number 38.

    30. At 11:20am on 19 Apr 2010, Rabbitkiller wrote:

    "The short-term damage to business and the serious inconvenience to air travellers is of course regrettable. But there's a more fundamental lesson from this, which is that modern life, for all its clever technology, is extremely dependent on stable natural conditions. If mankind cannot cope with the absence of aeroplanes, what happens when an extreme burst of solar radiation destroys most of our electronic devices and communications?"

    Shhhh - don't tell them about the EMP strike - it will scare them silly.

  • Comment number 39.

    Well at least there are some upsides to all of this:

    No justification for a third runway at Heathrow
    Massive reduction of CO2 emissions
    No overhead aircraft noise
    Much less traffic around airports

    Enjoy the peace while it lasts - and I do have great sympathy for all the people stranded - I brought back three additional people from Paris last week in my car who would have been stuck.

  • Comment number 40.

    Long may the peace continue! A bloody nose to the selfish middle class who fly everywhere at the drop of a hat. A dig in the ribs for the cheapo airlines that have reduced the cost of flying so that too many people do it. A shot across the bows to retailers who shut food production facilities in this country so that they can sell us cheap imported mange tout from Kenya and blackberries from Chile. And peace and quiet for those on the flypaths. I shouldn't laugh really. But I will! Hahahaha!

  • Comment number 41.

    No problem at all if the airline industry dies. Back to trains, boats, and most of all airships — quiet, efficient, able to lift virtually unlimited quantities of cargo. Get used to the idea that it will take two or three days to get to North America (but no jet lag!), and that you can't buy fresh tropical fruit in Britain. Savour the quiet skies.

  • Comment number 42.

    Presumably volcanoes go bang because of the internal heat of the planet. Therefore more heat equals more bangs. So more, and longer, eruptions can be expected in the future as the planet warms up through global warming.
    Doesn't air travel contribute to global warming?

  • Comment number 43.

    The airline bosses would have a point if the met was saying the restriction would have to be in place all summer. Since we only have short delays that are then extended further by just hours then can we conclude that airline bosses do not understand the difference between saying 12 hours and 12 weeks? Bit thick, aren't they!

  • Comment number 44.

    Are you absolutely sure this isn't the fault of the bankers?

  • Comment number 45.

    Robert,

    Your article presents an interesting conundrum!! And a subtle political debate no less!

    In one corner: those who agree/accept that travel industries behave like a business (ie: we the corporate entity will take you from point a to point b, not as a public service, but only if we make money out of it).

    Add to this mix those who seem rather disappointed that the government has taken action to protect the public. For what reason I remain frankly unclear (mind, imagine the responses if the government didn't act, etc, etc)

    In the other corner: those who would like to see the travel industry behave like a service (same arguments as above, other way around) - cross-pollination of travel, etc, etc.

    Diplomacy removed: Is it ultimately the sad truth that any benefit from mutuality of the travel industry is simply unachievable in the profit-first Thatcher business model?

    Could this mean the unthinkable - the model of the last 30 years is flawed? (ie: there are problems with profit before people?!?). See what the insurers are up to in this instance, if evidence is needed!!!

    So a question to you Robert: what should replace it?


    (I look forward to your next article!!)

  • Comment number 46.

    What I would like to know is :-
    How long can a volcanic eruptions last? I seem to recall that in the distant past some lasted over 10,000 years.
    If the Icelandic volcano stopped eruption now, for how long would the ash continue to be a problem?

  • Comment number 47.

    22. At 10:48am on 19 Apr 2010, F1 wrote:

    "What the PR department won't tell you is they were probably lucky and found a window in the ash to climb through which isn't going to be there for every flight."

    Ah the old PR machine - I heard Willie Walsh went up on a test flight to prove how 'safe it was' - I thought it might be so they could mimic the weight of a full plane - but fortunately nobody told his life insurer - who would have had kittens if he found out!

    Planes don't take of if there is a possibility of a mechanical fault, they also don't take off if there is a possibility of a bomb, or suspicious passenger on board - so why are the airlines so adamant that this danger is miniscule.

    Even of they convince the Government, they still have to convince the insurers, the passengers and of course - the crew (who for BA are not keen on risking their lives for their sympathetic boss).

    Despite the idiocy of the meja (and the Beeb at the forefront) - this is not Dunkirk as the returning passengers do not have the worlds biggest army on their back and they are not likely to get torpedoed in the channel!

    To describe passengers in Italy as 'stranded' is absurd - there are still trains and boats and coaches (albeit market forces have moved them to profit from misfortune). I did hear one story on one of the commerical channels which actually said "xxxxx is stuck in Switzerland where they are desperate as they have no money and their credit cards are maxed out"

    ....and that wouldn't be a problem if they were in Britan because.....?

    I do laugh at the arrogance of the traveller - just because the air industry has brought everything closer and (too) cheap - doesn't mean going abroad is like popping to the shops.

    Some travellers I have sympathy for - most I do not. Obviously not many modern travellers have taken a 20 hour coach trip to Bulgaria and back - which was part of the holiday!!! - apparently now this is a expedition.

  • Comment number 48.

    37. At 12:01pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    At least in a planned Economy you could move all the spare airline staff to another more pressing industry (like the giant fan industry!)
    ----------------------------

    Hahaha! Wotw, I was sneezing a lot this weekend like a giant fan!
    What did YOU do for the poor aviation industry, comradski?

  • Comment number 49.

    All the commentary is about how to deal with the effects of the ash cloud, but can't we just go straight to the route of the problem - am I the only one who thinks dropping a big "lid" on top of the volcano is a good idea?

  • Comment number 50.

    The MAIN lesson from all this is a REMINDER to all of us that the Earth is a dynamic system and contrary to that, the society we are building up is based on static condition of the Earth.

    We need to go back to basics and live a more humble and sustained life - in line with the dynamics of the planet Earth. For a start we can re-consider the energy sources as to which one is the most effective and the least expensive one i.e. non-commercial.

    Can we do that?

  • Comment number 51.

    Volcanic ash or Volcani Cash it seems people abroad are desperate to get home, instead of enjoying an extended holiday. I can understand it must be frustrating if people have commitments when they come home but many are complaining simply because they have no cash.

    Isn't this why we save ''for a rainy day'' ??? Volcanni cash, or is the rainy day money just for spending in sunny countries abroad.

    Why go to abroad in the first place if the first thing that goes''wrong'', you complain.

    Indeed it seems a feature of society these days to shout and scream when things don't always go your way.
    Bankers too want to go abroad when all things don't go their way, but at least they don't come back.
    Here we have people complaining about the need for a dual carriageway bypass because their 16 mile commuter journey takes over an hour.

    Why don't they just move house !!!

    Is this particular complaint just another manifestation of secular Britain ?? Good but not ''Great'' anymore...


    I suppose with all this ash falling in the UK and Europe at least we should be looking forward to a ''BARBECUE SUMMER''.

    Hee Hee.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm glad that I have no plans to fly anywhere, particularly so if there is pressure to fly in less than clear conditions. The ash cloud may have dispersed sufficiently not to cause a flame out (as happened over Indonesia) and a possible loss of aircraft as a result, but small quantities of abrasive particles can do slow long term damage to engine turbines and the leading edges of all the flying surfaces.

    Would you be happy to fly in an aircraft where critical parts were sandblasted from time to time with consequent erosion of skin thickness? Feel free, but I don't, thank you all the same. And forget filtering jet intakes; what happens when the filter clogs, er, the engine stops or at the very least exhibits a drastic loss of thrust. Unlike the sand filters on tanks in desert conditions you can't just pull over, stop, and unclog them, can you.

    Yes things are difficult, very so for some. But they are all on the ground somewhere and thus safe. It doesn't say much for our collective resilience if an event like this can have everyone rushing around like headless chickens.

    Oh and if they do start flying again before it's wise expect the purchase of new engines and aircraft to be brought forward; damage by abrasive particles will shorten aircraft and engine life and who will pay in the long run? The passenger, and if that's you then you are just going to have to put up with it.

    Be careful what you wish for...

  • Comment number 53.

    John_From_Hendon ..... its all very well and good saying sit back and enjoy the extended holiday but whos paying for the additional hotels, meals etc ?? My wife and son should have returned from Spain last Friday and are stuck there until at least Thursday depending on what happens this week. To date its cost an extra £1000 to stay in the hotel (more than the initial weeks holiday cost!!) and could cost more depending what happens.

    I'm fortunate in that we can afford to pay this but what about those who cant just put their hands on £1000 to tide them over to get back? Sleep on the beach with two kids and be happy about it?!?!?

    What doesnt help is that the airlines have all started to put up the prices of flights into the UK, I assume trying to recoup some of their losses. One particular airline has on their website that if you cant get through to their call centre to "transfer" your booking to a new flight you should book the next available flight through the web and they will refund your original flight costs on return to the UK.

    First off the line is constantly engaged ... secondly, should you try and book a new flight at the highly increased rates under the missaprehension you will be fully refunded you'll get a nasty surprise when they will only be giving back your original costs. In my particular case the original flights for four people cost £240 ... if I were to rebook these as advised it would cost £1500 so I'm a further £1250 out of pocket!!

  • Comment number 54.

    For all those who believe it is safe to fly now, and are calling for flights to resume immediately - would you put yourself or your loved ones on those first flights? I think not...

  • Comment number 55.

    air travel should be banned anyway, it's burning up all our oxygen.

    GC

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Robert,

    One more question to add to the mix:

    The business run by Willie Walsh is losing at least £25m a day at the moment.

    This is over and above the £6m / day he lost when preferring to absorb his employee's rights to free speech and industrial action.

    On the assumption that this event will last at least 10 days - there goes 250m.

    Makes his approach towards resolving the industrial dispute a bit like what our bankers done: Dip into the credit card, go into the red further.

    Is it just me, or will the privately run business that is called BA drive itself into oblivion?

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes its difficult for traveller's and painful for those like Willie Walsh running British Airways.
    However, Mr Walsh chose his career and my small business won't get compensation for any natural disasters, Icelandic or not, so why should British Airways.
    Running a BUSINESS for profit is a RISK. That's what business is all about, is it not - you take a gamble, if it works out your happy.
    No point in running to "mummy in tears" when Mother Nature won't play ball!
    I've just noticed REUTERS have posted an item on "volcanic ash/glass build up has been found inside the jet engines of NATO F16 fighter planes"
    So which AIRLINE BOSS is going to take the cavalier attitude "fly and be damned" now, if they crash now or in a few weeks or months time, its (business) game over.
    Best be safe than sorry?

  • Comment number 58.

    49. At 12:26pm on 19 Apr 2010, The end is nigh wrote:

    All the commentary is about how to deal with the effects of the ash cloud, but can't we just go straight to the route of the problem - am I the only one who thinks dropping a big "lid" on top of the volcano is a good idea?

    -----------------------------------------------------

    HAHAHAHAHA!!! Some people really are plain stoopid!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    #26. "As disruptive as the current situation is the Soviet Union created a vehicle which would be perfect for this situation during the cold war. They called it the Ekranoplan (the beeb even have a article about it at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7638659.stm%29.
    The largest of these weighed over 500 tons, could carry over 350 passengers and travel 400mph at an optimum altitude of 20m (below the ash cloud I belive).
    Maybe Sir Stelios or Michael O'Leary should contact the Russian Goverment their bound to have a few still lying about."

    Ekranoplans have basically the same limitations as hovercraft... they're designed to "fly" over fairly flat water and some low lying ground features (like sandbanks). They were designed for a fast crossing of the caspian sea (hence their nickname 'the caspian sea monster' and invasion of Northern Iran. Unfortunately ground effect stops at about 20M which is considerably lower than most power lines and many trees. Ekranoplans would be useful for getting stranded Brits from Calais to Dover but thats all they're good for.

    As for #42. "At 12:12pm on 19 Apr 2010, anotherPen wrote:
    Presumably volcanoes go bang because of the internal heat of the planet. Therefore more heat equals more bangs. So more, and longer, eruptions can be expected in the future as the planet warms up through global warming.
    Doesn't air travel contribute to global warming?"

    The emphasis is on INTERNAL heat of the planet- hot even to melt rock! The idea that the air temperature rising from 20'C to 21'C will have any effect on molten rock at 3000'C is ridiculous. Globally volcanoes produce more CO2 than Britain does. However they also produce huge amounts of sulphur dioxide and ash that blocks the suns heating. The big eruption in the Philipines in the 90's stopped global warming for nearly 3 years. An Icelandic eruption in the 1700's chucked so much debris and sulphur into the atmosphere that it plunged Britain into a virtual nuclear winter, killed tens of thousands and it got so cold icebergs drifted in the channel. This eruption is less than nothing in comparision.

  • Comment number 60.

    "50. At 12:26pm on 19 Apr 2010, plamski wrote:
    The MAIN lesson from all this is a REMINDER to all of us that the Earth is a dynamic system and contrary to that, the society we are building up is based on static condition of the Earth.

    We need to go back to basics and live a more humble and sustained life - in line with the dynamics of the planet Earth. For a start we can re-consider the energy sources as to which one is the most effective and the least expensive one i.e. non-commercial.

    Can we do that?"

    We could do.

    Alternatively we could pump some of the melting glaciers into the volcano pipe the high pressure steam into some big turbines and get cheap clean electricity.

  • Comment number 61.

    ....and airlines asking for a bailout? - where has the moral hazard gone?

    It's the inevitability of it all...

    We can have zombie airlines to fly the 'miracle workers' of our zombie banks around.

    All we need is some zombie hotels to put them up in and a nice zombie housing market so they can get on with their zombie lives.

    All those who moan about an over-inflated public sector need to start looking at the cost of our 'zombie sector' - all saved from failure because someone forget that free markets don't work too well with industries which are vital to the country.

  • Comment number 62.

    48. At 12:20pm on 19 Apr 2010, plamski wrote:

    "Hahaha! Wotw, I was sneezing a lot this weekend like a giant fan!
    What did YOU do for the poor aviation industry, comradski? "

    I ate a lot of baked beans and stood facing south east.

    I noticed the politicans did their bit by producing 'mountains of hot air' to try and push the dust cloud higher.

  • Comment number 63.

    44. At 12:15pm on 19 Apr 2010, Alec wrote:

    "Are you absolutely sure this isn't the fault of the bankers?"

    Well they didn't cause it - but they will probably end it as the airlines are worried about paying back the banks money - not their faux-commitment to 'bring their customers home' - which is driving them to take risks by flying through dust clouds at 500 mph.

  • Comment number 64.

    50. At 12:26pm on 19 Apr 2010, plamski wrote:

    "The MAIN lesson from all this is a REMINDER to all of us that the Earth is a dynamic system and contrary to that, the society we are building up is based on static condition of the Earth."

    Nah - you're wrong - we can simply insure ourselves against it - I'm sure there is a financial whizzkid thinking up an instrument right now....

    VDI - Volcanic diplacement Insurance, for a premium we will insure against any loss or displacement caused by volcanoes (Assuming none will be greater than any we have had in the last 50 years)

    Roll up, roll up, get your VDi here - no modern portfolio shoud be without one..

  • Comment number 65.

    Apparently there are gaps in the ash cloud.

    Has anyone actually gone up an investigated these ash holes? I'm sure if there are ash holes up there then the airline industry can find them - I mean birds of a feather do flock together don't they?

    Me? - I'll stick with the geeky scientist thanks. He may not be pretty and he may not be the best person at a party - but at least I know his pay packet doesn't rely on the dust decision (unlike airlines) and if there were any ash holes up there then we would probably spot them from down here.

  • Comment number 66.

    There is nothing to fear but fear itself !

    ermm ...You go first

  • Comment number 67.

    53. At 12:39pm on 19 Apr 2010, Rob


    ...and why are you not claiming the costs of hotel stay back off the airline?
    Don't you know your EU flight conditions for delayed and cancelled flights?

    Their meals and acoomodation - and even money to buy clothes - are all covered by our EU agreement.

    They should be speaking to the airline - who must either offer an alternative flight / trip or pay for the accomodation until it's resolved.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm surprised the teachers are stuck abroad on holiday.
    Don't they claim to need 12 weeks holiday a year to do class prep work?

  • Comment number 69.

    Comment 40, oh! how I agree with you. There are practically no reqasons to fly. Cheap tacky holidays, business trips which could easily be sorted over the internet, but of course its the jolly they want. I do concede that visiting family now and then is important. Flight fares should reflect the true price of damage to the environment and as for carbon trading, well that is the "emporers invisible clothes". If you create carbon, you create it. It cannot be traded, the whole concept of that is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 70.

    58. At 12:45pm on 19 Apr 2010, ajollygoodriddancetoall wrote:
    49. At 12:26pm on 19 Apr 2010, The end is nigh wrote:
    am I the only one who thinks dropping a big "lid" on top of the volcano is a good idea?
    -----------------------------------------------------
    HAHAHAHAHA!!! Some people really are plain stoopid!!!
    ____________________________________________________________________

    Actually I think you might have something there.
    Imagine you could channel that power into useable energy.
    Any boffins tuning in today ?


  • Comment number 71.

    Volcanoes unlike God created everything and continue to do so.
    They are not predictable except to say some seem to huff and puff before they blow, some seem to go off at fairly regular intervals, some look like its time to blow, some play follow my leader.
    Look on the bright side rather than allow Brits to stay away while bankrupting holiday firms and airlines.
    Gordon has dispatched what's left of our Navy to bring them home in time to vote.

  • Comment number 72.

    40. At 12:10pm on 19 Apr 2010, LippyLippo wrote:

    Long may the peace continue! A bloody nose to the selfish middle class who fly everywhere at the drop of a hat. A dig in the ribs for the cheapo airlines that have reduced the cost of flying so that too many people do it. A shot across the bows to retailers who shut food production facilities in this country so that they can sell us cheap imported mange tout from Kenya and blackberries from Chile. And peace and quiet for those on the flypaths. I shouldn't laugh really. But I will! Hahahaha!

    ===

    Wow. You are bitter. You could be "lower" or "upper" class, as you might put it. Or perhaps a middle class person who flies to selected places, paying full fare, planning it ahead, unselfishly. Are you a local food producer? Someone who lives near an airport? Or just an old-fashioned climate changist, longing for retribution against those who don't believe in your religion?

  • Comment number 73.

    It's not all doom and gloom...Maybe the UK will meet it's target for a reduction in emissions for 2010

  • Comment number 74.

    Safety isn't just about the air passengers, it's also those on the flight paths. Aircraft that crash have to hit the ground somewhere, and Lockerbie showed just what that can mean. Nor is flying low the answer - that would turn half the UK into the noise hell that is the Heathrow area.

  • Comment number 75.

    all those ash holes seems down here

  • Comment number 76.

    "We need to go back to basics and live a more humble and sustained life - in line with the dynamics of the planet Earth. For a start we can re-consider the energy sources as to which one is the most effective and the least expensive one i.e. non-commercial.

    Can we do that?"

    -- of course we can - it's how all humanity lived until around 120 years ago. Great civilisations, great art and architecture all thrived without aeroplanes, cars, telephones, computers or electricity. We take such things for granted, but nature can snatch them from us in an instant and we are powerless to do anything about it. That's the lesson we need to take from all this.

  • Comment number 77.

    " 9. At 10:28am on 19 Apr 2010, SmilySpook wrote:
    I Have lots of sympathy with folk prevented from going on or coming back from holiday as many families will lose their holiday / their money or both.

    As far as business trips go, I do wonder, as you eluded to in a previous article, whether some organisations will actually get more value for money as the trips for some of these execs will be cut and the business themselves will wonder if they actually need the exec at all."

    That's right, we don't need to export anything do we? We can just generate growth by hiring new civil servants and paying ourself more benefits. Numpty

  • Comment number 78.

    Sorry, but I couldn't resist this joke I heard over the weekend.

    It is all Gordon & Alistair's fault.

    The Icelandic Government thought they said "Can we have our ash back" rather than our cash back.


  • Comment number 79.

    if you use twitter you can post ride sharing directly by tweeting like this

    Amsterdam > Barcelona / could give a lift for two people @gglite

    must use symbols: > / @gglite

    the trips will be posted on lite.geogoer.com and made searchable

  • Comment number 80.

    67. At 1:10pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    We may well be able to claim back the expense from the airline .... thats assuming a couple of things:

    a) The airline still exists to claim off ...
    b) They dont try and pull the same stunt as the insurers ... quote "act of god" and wash there hands of it.

    At present the airline in question is stating its not their problem ... as are the insurer. We'll see I suppose over the next couple of weeks but I'm not holding my breath!



  • Comment number 81.

    73. At 1:42pm on 19 Apr 2010, James wrote:
    It's not all doom and gloom...Maybe the UK will meet it's target for a reduction in emissions for 2010

    Given the emmisions mother nature is pumping out every hour from Iceland it rather makes the difference we'll be saving pale into insignificance.

  • Comment number 82.

    The airlines are only interested in making profits and do not give a dam for passenger safety as they only have money in mind it does not matter to them if an aircraft get written off so as they can keep their shareholders happy. I certainly will not fly with any british airline especially BA I shall go by sea in future to visit family in America for a lot less than a plane ticket. There are plenty of freighters that take passengers and I shall be using them in Future

  • Comment number 83.

    F1 and WOTW.
    I reckon if you were in the south of Portugal, on your own with four children under 6, with associated baggage, you would be hard pressed to describe yourself as something other than 'stranded'.
    Sure, you'd make the most of it, as the poitive and constructive people you clearly are, but in these days where footballers are 'heroes', I think 'stranded' is fair.

  • Comment number 84.

    Interesting point Mr Peston on TUI Travel - apparently TUI have raised bonds and loans for mergers and buy outs during and/or post volcanic travel disruptions for travel companies and certain airlines?

    However, the losers still appear to be budget package holiday consumers whose insurance companies' lawyers will fight compensation tooth and nail?

    If you are an independent traveler - the insurance will be a lesson learned and should be clearer.

    The most disturbing aspect of this, financially, will be the expensive lawyers working for airlines demanding tax-paid governmental compensation and government's lawyers actually responding?!! Government/tax-paid lawyers should not respond - unless they want more taxpayer money of course?

  • Comment number 85.

    Sadly, next year, ordinary families will be appearing on Watchdog and other available consumer programs - and will still be fighting their travel insurance companies?

    Also, sadly, next year, because of tax-payers support and weak governments being blinded by lawyers - there will be profitable airline mergers; hugely profitable hedge-fund speculation - which, incidentally, were already planned to happen without tax-payer support.

    The conclusion is: NO tax-payer money for any private airline and their shareholders who are already manipulating their 'contacts' with elected and unelected ministers across the EU Commission and 'others' should NOT BE ALLOWED?

  • Comment number 86.

    There are rumours emerging that Iceland deliberately engineered the volcanic eruption...

    http://tiny.cc/4qdl1

  • Comment number 87.

    I think it's inevitable that both travelers and and the airline industry would complain about the disruption in service. I'm quite surprised to read the number of comments above criticizing the use of computer simulations and models to predict potential outcomes from the natural event. I wonder if these commentators would prefer basing their decision to resume flight activity based on a whinge factor instead!

    Rest assured that had flights resumed for whatever reason the whinge from the public would be far greater had a plane or two come tumbling down from the sky! As an aside, I stumbled across this cartoon looking at the lighter side of the Iceland volcano eruption that I think you might enjoy.. hopefully the ash will all blow over soon!

    Anna Sempe

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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