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BA: 'Let us decide if it's safe to fly'

Robert Peston | 12:44 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

BA has now quantified the daily costs of the airspace closure at between £15m and £20m per day.

And it has confirmed that European airlines have asked the EU and national governments for financial compensation for the prohibition on flying.

Later today I also expect BA to say that it believes - on the basis of the tests it conducted yesterday - that it is safe to resume at least some flying.

The airlines believe they have a moral case for compensation from taxpayers, in that they have been deprived of the ability to make their own judgements about whether it is safe to fly.

In effect, the European Commission - or rather the air-safety arm of it - has prohibited flights.

The airlines tell me that this is a break from the norm: they would typically assess, in consultation with regulators such as the Civil Aviation Authority, whether it's safe to fly.

This is what happened in the US, I am told, after the Montserrat eruption.

BA would like to be given back some responsibility for determining whether it is right to fly.

As for the prickly issue of compensation, the airlines believe there is a precedent: nine years ago, after 9/11, airlines were compensated for the four-day prohibition on transatlantic flights. BA received £22m from the British government under this scheme.

If compensation is paid this time, it would probably have to have an EU dimension, given that the flying ban is an EU decision.


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  • Comment number 1.

    No way.

    Airlines, whatever they may say now about 'consultations' are well aware that when it comes to being permitted to fly, NATS and its counterparts in other countries have the final say.

    The events of September 2001 are not comparable: it was a political decision not a safety one. Politicians made the decision, it is a shame that they were not required to pay for it but allowed to use our money to recompense those affected.

    Any prudent individual or company takes out insurance against not being able to do what they intend. Or they would if they had any faith in insurance companies to actually honour any policy.

    Both airlines and travellers should be having a long hard talk with insurance companies and be ready to refuse to allow them to renage on their obligations. And governments need to back them up and require the insurers to pay out. Until they do that, they can keep my money where it belongs: a contribution to enable the government to meet its own obligations, not someone elses!

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd be curious to know how much does a crash costs an airline, compensation, plane and all. The problem is that even if odds are 1:100000 that there is a problem, that may mean a big problem within 2 weeks. Bad for PR (sorry if I sound cynical - I was supposed to be in Delhi today, I'm glad to be "stuck" at home).

    There are perfectly justified to ask for a bail-out. There is no reason why they shouldn't get their share of money that doesn't exist anyway. Tax-payers should also get a bail-out.

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem with the airline test flights is they don't really prove anything. The NERC test plane with special detection equipment has reported that the amount of ash is not constant but varies significantly. The Airline test flights may not come into contact with signficant amounts of ash but if flights were restarted on a large scale then some of the reinstated flights might run into denser areas of ash (standard aircraft radar can't detect it) with a catastrophic result.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yeah - it's funny how it's only BA making this cry - which is more reflective of their own financial position and their CEO's distain for 'all things human' than anything.

    I mean Easyjet can stay grounded 'for up to 6 months' before they start to run into trouble - mainly because they maintain such a high cash / liquidity barrier.

    Maybe if Wee Willie had some profits to play with then he could have done the same - but unfortunately he "didn't see the recession coming" and therefore could only be reactive and not proactive - imposing wages freezes and cuts rather than reducing any of this giant personal salary or costs coming up to the end of the boom.

    These highly paid numskulls are really worth the money - aren't they?

  • Comment number 5.

    Robert wrote:

    'BA would like to be given back some responsibility for determining whether it is right to fly.'

    Now what's that about the benefits of laissez faire regulation.

    How about we send up a few plane loads of politicians, bankers and airline executives on the first flights out of Heathrow...then I'll be satisfied!

  • Comment number 6.

    I was waiting on this call for compensation after the so called test flights. Where is the actual evidence that there was no impact on the long term life of the engines and what flight path did they follow? NOT VERY SCIENTIFIC IF THEY SIMPLY FLEW FOR A WHILE. MY CAR WILL TRAVEL THROUGH WATER FOR A WHILE BUT WHEN THE ENGINE STOPS, IT REALLY STOPS. BA should be allowed to open up their flights and invite passenger to fly if they want. Lets see if BA and passengers take it up, I don't think so? If a BA plane falls out the sky then the company is finished and that's a risk they should be allowed to take.

  • Comment number 7.

    If their basis for ignoring the met office, is that they predicted bbq weather but with a 35% of a washout long term forecast for last summer, i wouldn't personally trust the airlines risk aversion judgement

  • Comment number 8.

    Doesn't it calculate out that if BA is losing £20 million per day then they must make an annual profit of 365 x 20 = £730 million per year. Time to spot the agreement or otherwise with annual profit, I think they may be moaning!

  • Comment number 9.

    Why should tax-payers, including those who don't fly, pay compensation to airlines? This would effectively be an insurance payout to companies who haven't paid any premiums.

  • Comment number 10.

    "The airlines believe they have a moral case for compensation from taxpayers, in that they have been deprived of the ability to make their own judgements about whether it is safe to fly."

    Maybe just shows how stupid the airlines are.

    They need to realise that their chosen means of money making has natural constraints. That they have not been impacted by such constraints for some time is lucky (for them) but those constraints were always there and presumably their own risk analysis took those constraints into consideration when costing/pricing their operation. If they have messed-up on that, they cannot expect the tax payer to bail them out. why should tax payers subsidise those who chose and can afford to fly. Let those who fly pay to bail out the airlines (presumably for a 2nd time as such costs would already have been built-in to the existing ticket costs (at least by any wise operation who looks to risks).

    And now they have been impacted they start wanting to "know better" than the authorities and risk passengers lives. The main aims of an airline are to make money. They have no altruistic motives about transporting people at reasonable cost, etc. - its all about profit and how to make as much as possible. Thus, considerations about safety are irrelevant - its considerations about costs of accident in relation to costs of no flying. Customer safety is relevant only in regards to the cost of an accident (materials, compensation, reputation, impact on future business, etc.). So they want to take the decision out of the hands of those who have passenger safety a their motives and put the decisionin the hands of corporations who have profit as their motive.

    Of course, if they have not cancelled a suicide flight, you go or lose your money - no right for a refund if you think it is just madness to fly.

    So who wants to fly with them now ?

  • Comment number 11.

    It is an EU decision and compensation should be awarded from their special fund. What else does this country pay 60 billion pounds to them for each year.

    As always though they come over as a fluffy organisation unable to make quick and proper decisions when there is a crisis.

    They go whichever way the wind blows and it's certainly not blowing in the right direction at the moment.

    As ever Mother Nature can pull a fast one on us at any time and it is thw lack of any coordinated contingency plans when put to the test that should worry us all.

    Getting people home should have be the priority and the slowness of the reaction from the EU as a whole is a disgrace.

    However Mother Nature may change her course in the next few days and everything could return to normal. There will be many hands in the prayer position until that haopens.

  • Comment number 12.

    What this test flight strikes me as, let's assume the result is negative, the filters within tolerable ranges and so on and this is then used to bolster the argument for resuming flights into the ash cloud, it'd be a bit like taking a car around the block without wearing a seat belt.

    You'll probably make it back in one piece and not dead. This does not detract from the fact that the risk of injury and death from travelling in car without a seat belt is significantly higher then when you do so with adequate safety measures (like seat belts) in place.

    The purpose of my analogy is that in the analysis of risk, we take into account the science of volcanic ash inside engines and abrasion on transparent materials and the factor of mass (ash is relatively heavy) are well established. Volcanic ash clouds have been responsible in the past for engine failure so there is sufficient reason to take seriously the danger of flying inside or through the ash cloud - and one flight test, just as one car journey does not overturn the weight of this prior knowledge in the same sense that a single car journey doesn't overturn the science of car safety measures.

  • Comment number 13.

    I am opposed to routine 'bail-outs' eg, when airlines were on their knees due to a down turn in trade.

    On this occassion I think they have a point.

    Although an initial ban on safety grounds was sensible, this has now gone on for too long - despite a lack of any evidence that this very thin dust poses any risk whatever to aircraft. Tests should have been carried by the authorities (not the airlines) on the very first day. They should also have taken more account of evidence/policies from other countries.

    Our government and the EU have shown a remarkable lack of leadership.

    If a ban has been sustained for several days, incuring great cost, for no reason then I think there is a case for compensation on this occassion.

  • Comment number 14.

    BA read my words... stop making nonsense. You and other working on the edge air carriers are now defunct. What else do you want? To take another 300 passengers with you?
    Bad business plan, bad airplane purchases, poor insurance underwriting, poor marketing strategy, poor working relations... shall I quote Anne Robinson... "You are the weakest link, goodbye!"

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Robert,

    The man who:

    a) will make a stonking loss with his business this year - £600m?

    b) spent £6m/day absorbing free-speech and industrial action from his own employee base, preferring an additional £50m debt on his books...

    c) will lose £250m due to unprecedented climatic conditions (ie: volcanic ash cloud)

    d) what was that pensions gap again?

    ... now wants to fly!!

    Would this be in-spite of the safety of his customer base?

    Mind, I can understand this from one point of view: his business will be short by the odd £1b (that's right, billion).

    Financially, he needs his planes flying. The obvious question needs to be asked: where is BA's clear demarcation between safety and profit, given their extremely difficult financial situation?

    But alas, every cloud (ahem) has a silver lining: surely a quick interview with the BA board might make some interesting business news indeed!

    Certainly makes some of his earlier decisions rather frivolous... And based on this track record, I remain unconvinced that BA should be (in any capacity) involved with the decision process for determining right/safe to fly...

  • Comment number 16.

    Hasn't the EU, the UK and pretty much every other government around the world already run out of (taxpayers') money?

    Just how deep are the pockets of governments to pay for virtually anything and everything, anyone and everyone can think of at anytime, anywhere?

    Just how much cash is there in the world, for goodness sake?

    Is the world going mad, or is it just me?

  • Comment number 17.

    Unfortunately the government set a precident for private sector bailouts with the foolish banks two years ago.

    Unlike with the banks which brought themselves to their knees by their own greed and folly; it is hard not to sympathise with the airlines as this is a situation not of their making or under their control.

    However, the idea of private profit and public loss has to nipped in the bud. Being in business carries risk - a risk the taxpayer must not underwrite.

    Let the banks bail out the airlines as they must be some of their largest customers.

  • Comment number 18.

    I spot a small flaw here.

    When will it be safe to fly? Presumably when NATS says it is - and who at NATS is going to be brave enough to say that, bearing in mind that they'll then get the blame if a plane does crash.

    So we wait until there isn't even an outside chance of any ash in the atmosphere - how many weeks/months? And, having set the precedent, the minute there's another volcanic eruption around the world (given the size of spread of this cloud) we stop again.

    Time to sell your shares in airlines, and holiday companies, and fresh fruit importers, and anyone who relies on air transport.

    Unless we get sensible, and set a criteria for flying where the risk is no more than a certain uplift on the existing risks of flying an aircraft - instead of waiting until everyone isn't too scared to decide.

  • Comment number 19.

    Its Ok. Bail them out. Print the money.
    I will authorise it.

  • Comment number 20.

    The safety of passengers over profit, a tricky question for the airlines. Private sector has become dependent on the taxpayer to assure profits, a responsbility that the governments made real with the banks. Maybe the airlines should pruchase some event/weather related insurance program, it is what the home-owner does. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons are not something that should surprise anyone, they apparently have been happening since before recorded time, they are a risk of doing business.

  • Comment number 21.

    5. At 1:17pm on 19 Apr 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:

    "How about we send up a few plane loads of politicians, bankers and airline executives on the first flights out of Heathrow...then I'll be satisfied!"

    Superb idea - and I shall tip the fuel engineer to make sure there's just enough fuel to get them into the middle of the Atlantic....

  • Comment number 22.

    I suspect the closure of the airspace was a bureaucratic overreaction. And now nobody is prepared to admit the mistake.

    Yes, it is dangerous to fly to a dense cloud of ash when you are flying next to a volcano.
    It is completely different if you fly 1200 miles from a volcano into an air with some volcanic gases.

  • Comment number 23.

    If Willie Walsh is so sure it's safe, let him start by sending up his freight planes rather than risking passenger lives.

  • Comment number 24.


    16 moraymint wrote:

    'Just how deep are the pockets of governments to pay for virtually anything and everything, anyone and everyone can think of at anytime, anywhere?'


    Didn't you know?...governments can steal money from the future! It's your kids and grand-kids that'll end up paying it back.

    Instead of inheriting assets...think of it as inheriting debt (plus interest).

  • Comment number 25.

    So, it was Iceland's volcano - I suggest we do as we did with the banks. Ask Iceland for the money for the compensation. Iceland can then, as they did with the banks, put it to their populace to vote on it...and, as with the banks, I am willing to back the people of Iceland 100% with whatever they decide to vote - ain't democracy wonderful!

  • Comment number 26.

    I hate to say it but.....

    ...if we had bothered to invest in our railways systems then this cloud would have had very little effect.
    Sadly the market dictates that flying is the transport to promote - mainly because the ticket price doesn't include the environmental impact.

    I say, this volcano is doing what mother nature intended it to do - the planet is warming so it spews out ash and dust to cool the atmosphere by blocking sunlight (as Mount Tambora did in 1815) - and mother nature is soooooo clever she also knows that the carbon dioxide output in this process can be 'off-set' by the lack of flying caused by directing it across the worlds busiest airspace.

    Now arrogant man has been slapped back into place - maybe we should have a little more respect for our environment and stop wrecking it in the chase for little green bits of paper.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall when the "no fly" was announced to Willie Walsh...would have been classic to see that reaction!

  • Comment number 28.

    I have a massive stock of Mephedrone all bought when it was legal...can I now seek compensation from the government for my losses now that I can't sell it because an independant body has ruled it dangerous? Of course not!

  • Comment number 29.

    Letting Willys' bankrupt airline decide whether or not it is safe to fly through a cloud of volcanic ash? I don't think so! We have independent bodies to make this sort of decision precisely in order to keep it out of the hands of vested interests. It wasn't the mine owners that stopped children going down the pit, or the factory owners who stopped people working 18 hours a day, and it won't be BA who decide if their profits make the risking of passengers' lives worthwhile.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well I agree with Willie, the flying ban should be downgraded to a strong recommendation that no flights should take place, the decision to fly should be made by the airlines and no compensation should be paid to the airlines.

    I might just want to point out to Willie that his aircraft cannot fly without insurance and no insurance company is going to provide cover given the obvious risks and the safety bodies strong recommendations.

    The airlines are losing money because of this situation and are trying to recoup their costs by blaming the regulators for stopping them flying, tough.

    The shareholders knew the risks when they bought the shares, Willie et al should be spending this time to mitigate against such an event ocurring again.

    The weather will change in a week or so and this will all blow over (literally), some airlines will go broke, some won't.
    That's business, get on with it.

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • Comment number 32.

    I believe that the airlines may have a moral right to claim back for compensation paid out under the EU compensation rules. Individuals ahould take out their own policies and not expect someone else to pay (especially were people are buying tickets for just £1).

  • Comment number 33.

    It's a pity BA cabin crew hadn't scheduled a 3 day strike during this period.
    That would have been funny!

  • Comment number 34.

    Why is it I can see our learned friends doing very well out of all this?

  • Comment number 35.

    Rob Williams at 1:20 pm - er.........365 X £20 million = £7300 million. NOT £730 million. I suggest you take up a business course and learn about profit and loss and also overheads i.e running costs.

  • Comment number 36.

    Overall a tricky call, a plane worth £20M or so (a ballpark figure) and a load of passengers, insurance value of around £200 000 each. It is not the monetary cost here though is it?
    And if it was then would passengers from less well off places in the world be allowed to fly?
    If BA want to fly, let them. Then let Mr Walsh go in front of the cameras saying the plane was good to fly and the dust is a myth when the plane did not make destination.

    I am sorry but acts of nature and all that....

  • Comment number 37.

    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.

    Profits must not come before safety! How can an airline know more than weather services?

    In August 2008 over France a Ryanair aircraft had to make an emergency landing after losing cabin pressure.

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

  • Comment number 38.

    Airlines are owed nothing by anybody, how can they even consider asking for compensation from Tax payers because of flight restrictions imposed due to a natural phenomenon, Tax payers did not cause the volcano, or the flight restrictions, in fact Tax payers are affected.
    If the airlines were permitted to fly and there was an horrendous accident, the airlines would be complaining that nobody warned them of possible safety implications.
    Yes airlines are losing a certain amount of money by being unable to fly, but they're also saving money on fuel costs, landing fees and some staff wages....tough at the top isn't it?
    It's a natural disaster accept it.....there are likely to be plenty more, although with a reduction in flying for nearly a week, surely that's had some effect on the ozone layer?

  • Comment number 39.

    How long does somebody have to be a member before they're not considered as "New"?

  • Comment number 40.

    Is it not NATS, a private company, that has decided to not to allow commercial flights in UK airspace? If this is so, and an airline feels that this decision was not justified, should they not sue NATS for compensation, not the EU or the UK government.

    Is this another case of a private company taking the profit, but expecting taxpayers to take the risk?

  • Comment number 41.

    Safety first.

    And just imagine the fuss if there was a tragedy with a plane crashing on a town - then IATA and the airlines would say the Govt and Europe should have stopped them taking off and should have saved them from themselves.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I don't believe that BA are in any position to decide whether it is safe to fly. Let's leave it to NATS who are at least more independent and not desperate to halt the losses of £20m per day, shall we? I don't know about you, but I'd rather err on the side of caution, preferring to be stuck in Blighty than plummet 30,000 feet to my death after the plane loses all its engines!!

  • Comment number 43.

    The passengers are out of pocket and aren't seeing compensation, and insurance firms are shrugging nonchalantly.

    So if the airlines want compensation then the only way I could see the public going along with that is if it is funded by a windfall tax on the hoteliers, train and ferry operators etc who have profited greatly from this, as well as insurance firms who seem to think they are on to a one-way bet.

  • Comment number 44.

    we should have learnt by now that "self-regulation" is an oxymoronic statement

  • Comment number 45.

    Airlines are now playing the role of the Mayor and Council in 'Jaws' - heck, do we have to close the beach (airspace) because of a pesky little shark (volcano)? Its probably OK and it will soon be the holiday season.
    just think of all that tourist spending we're missing out on!

  • Comment number 46.

    Neither pilots nor managers have the answers. Scientists and subject matter experts do and they are better able to assess the risk.

    About the losses airlines make. It's their business. Business comes with risk, so they have to swallow. I would frankly be quite upset if continental carries (Dutch, French, German) would receive taxpayer's money whilst knowing that their pilots for example make over 200,000 euros per year and their management makes a multitude of that. That is simply not explainable to the public.

    They have to show their commitment first and do something about that before asking my hard-earned money from the governments.

    If that means one of these airlines will go under. Too bad. It will create a more robust industry in the future. Evolution it's called.

  • Comment number 47.

    Horned_Devil wrote:
    "Oh I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall when the "no fly" was announced to Willie Walsh...would have been classic to see that reaction!"

    It couldn't happen to a nicer man!

    He doesn't care if his passengers crash and burn, as long as his profits don't LOL!

  • Comment number 48.

    this is going to be new trend post bank bail out it care or concern for a nyone except big company pockets,..what airlines want is continued profits and theyr trying to black mail government by asking for compansation...for not flying..if they fly whop is responsible for any accidents that may happen,;;..will we be thewn allowed to hang the presidents/ceo of the airlines..and i think at the compansation of atleast 2 million/passenger--a crashed transatlantic jumbojet will be more costlier than keeping plane on airport

  • Comment number 49.

    I cannot understand why we should have to bail out companies when they do you decide who gets what?? I have a friend ( a single mother) who relies on the airport runs as she is self employed taxi driver....and over the past few days has had limited earnings due to cancellations....what help will be given to her...none I bet.....

  • Comment number 50.

    5. At 1:17pm on 19 Apr 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:

    "....How about we send up a few plane loads of politicians, bankers and airline executives on the first flights out of Heathrow...then I'll be satisfied!"

    Willie Walsh and several of the top BA people (head of engineering etc) actually were on their test flight. Nothing happened. The plane has been inspected by engineers, it's fine. Same thing with all the other tests various airlines have done - KLM has done multiple test flights.

    Have a look at the details of the plane that had problems some time back (BA009, Jakarta to Perth, 1982 - its all easily available on the internet and sky have a whole tv programme with the passengers/pilots interviewed) - it was night time and they flew literally into that hiroshima type cloud coming out a volcano. It was so thick it was like a blizzard white out, it sandblasted the paint off the the outside of the plane, it was so thick inside the cabin the passengers were choking.

    It was absolutely nothing like what we can see over UK/Europe.

    Other countries, including the USA, have continued to fly in very thin dust like this - again with no problems whatever.

    My only question is why it is being left to airlines to fly the test flights, not being done officially by the government, and why the tests were not done on the very first day. Total lack of leadership.

  • Comment number 51.

    Not sure about compensation; but for sure any airline that has not been anything than 100% helpful to it's stranded customers should loose any chance of compensation.

  • Comment number 52.

    So does this mean that I should have the moral right to drive my car at 100mph just because I think I am a safe driver?
    This isn't an issue of morality, it is an issue of greed.

  • Comment number 53.

    If the trains are the way forward through Europe.........
    Sorry I am having a bit of a time warp here, around 200 years or so?
    In the sake of being modern the councils ripped up trams and trolley buses then the trains and branch lines
    And here we are, in the twenty first century saying they are the way forward..

    History does repeat itself. A Europe wide cohesive train service would only stop with strikes and snow, no ash!!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    Can we please have the pleausre of the facts and figures that show that amount of CO2 emissions from a week before the the volcano and the current week when all of britains airspace came to stand still. Then document this arguement.

  • Comment number 55.

    The only money that governments have is the money paid in by us the taxpayer. So basically the question is do we want to give some of our hard earned money to the airlines. To this question I say a resounding NO!

  • Comment number 56.

    43. At 3:34pm on 19 Apr 2010, Roy wrote:
    The passengers are out of pocket and aren't seeing compensation, and insurance firms are shrugging nonchalantly.

    Slightly heartless but. as a nation, we seem to be becoming, completely dependant on this annoying blame culture rubbish.

    It's a Volcano. If you fly you might die. OK Passengers are out of pocket. Caveat Emptor !

    If they dont fly yes they will get a refund. If they took appropriate insurance they will get compensated for other losses.

    Is it the airline's fault they didn't take insurance or that a Volcano decided to erupt?

    Do you have any idea how much airlines are having to pay out to cover looking after stranded EU passengers because of some stupid law introduced to assist European politicians?

    The days of cheap air travel are coming to an end right here.

  • Comment number 57.

    What rubbish about the problem resting with Insurers. Airlines are very large commercial companies. They buy a policy with their eyes open and with advice from their professional Broker, there is no suprises here. The policy a legal contract which says exactly what coverage is being purchased. Isn't it amazing that it is always the Insurers who a re expected to pay for all the problems of the world.

  • Comment number 58.

    Perhaps some of the 'corporate looters' who have been ripping off me and the many others trapped for the past few days could contribute.

    - Eurostar & the ferry companies; I eventually managed to get a ticket for a few days time, but paid 4 times the usual fare.
    - Paris hotels; double.
    - Cell phone companies; all the hours waiting on the line to call centers to try to find out what to do, whilst paying exorbitant roaming charges
    - Airport parking; who knows how much I will pay by the time I get home
    - Rental car extension charges; rip off charges for returning late or to an alternative location
    - Credit card companies; foreign exchange charges and interest that will now become due
    - airlines; yes - they are at it too in the airports that are still open .. check the price of a ticket from Madrid to almost anywhere - its incredible
    - there are many others ...

    Normally looters (often victims themselves) get shot when they prey on victims of some disaster or other. These corporate looters improve their stock price and enhance their bonuses. Since we probably cant shoot them, at the least let's tax relentlessly...

  • Comment number 59.

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

  • Comment number 60.

    On the basis that if any aircraft should crash the Chief Executive Officer and the whole Board of the Airline are charged with negligent murder and put on trial with the maximum possible penalty. I would almost consider letting them fly....

  • Comment number 61.

    Depending on a computer model to say where the dust is is totally inadequate.
    Surely, with all the money we have spent on advanced aircraft for our RAF, we could have quickly required them to fly patterns across the path of the volcano plume with filters to measure the density of the contaminants?
    Then we could all know the extent of the dangers and allowed an informed decision on when and where the commercial aircraft were safe to fly.
    What would have happened if someone had dropped an atomic bomb on Iceland!

  • Comment number 62.

    Let's not forget airlines record on safety vs profits.

    Many air crashes have resulted from inadequate maintenance - the responsibility of the airline.
    Airlines have difficulty in admitting fault when those elements they do control fail - so do you really think that they will carry the can if one fails because of the cloud?

    Reports are the ban is lifting tomorrow - on your heads be it (and lets hope downed planes don't fall on land - or it will be on all our heads!)

    As the Lancet complains of politics overriding science with the drugs ban - as do political needs surpass the need for scientific advice about safe flying.

  • Comment number 63.

    Bread... circuses... and now volcanoes?

  • Comment number 64.

    50. At 4:14pm on 19 Apr 2010, jon112uk

    AKA - Airline spokesman.

    Clearly you have no idea about probability and why a few test flights have no bearing on the 10,000 flights a day which operate out of European airspace and the probability of a disaster.

    You will also find that not all volcanoes produce the same mixture of gases and dust - so comparing previous instances of volcanic ash being flown through is again pointless.

    The dust cloud on the Jakarta flight was much more defined and therefore you knew when you were in and when you were out of it - it's not the same with this one as you could be flying in it for some time and the cumulative effect is the problem - not the instantaneous effect.

    ...but by all means - be my guest and get on a plane.

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm afraid this situation has been handled in very badly. The words Safety and Security just have to mentioned to justify the most draconian and intrusive measures by regulators.
    I am a professional ferry pilot flying a piston engined aircraft across the Atlantic trying to get to Denmark.My engine is to all intents and purposes a car engine. It has air & fuel filters and a propellor not a furnace that sucks in vast amounts of air, heats it up to high temperatures and then spits it out. I flew round the volcanic ash on Thursday. I could see it and avoid it. Denmark continue to prohibit ALL aircraft movements including hot air ballons and gliders!Iceland,Norway UK France Netherlands plus many more countries have now relaxed their rules and allow aircraft to fly when they can see their way round obsticles like clouds, hills other aircraft. This situation shows how we have allowed so called experts to dominate our lives and remove any personal responsibility. I have yet to uncover any other incident relating to damage caused by volcanic ash other than the dramatic BA incident.The regulators who are causing this massive damage to our economy should be made to account for their decisions. Hiding behind the banner of Safety is not acceptable.

  • Comment number 66.

    How many lives were lost before Samuel Plimsoll MP enacted his law?
    You have to draw the line somewhere.
    Then as now, companies were putting profits first.
    We know better now however so that lives will not be lost.
    It does not follow that compensation should be awarded.
    Compensation for what? For doing what is right?
    Airplanes fly with precious enough safety margins anyway. They are right on the edge. That is how they make money. Push the envelope a little bit more, use more fuel - oh dear - no safety margins at all. Ooops.

  • Comment number 67.

    I would like to know from BA now, what exactly are the compensation terms are if a plane should crash due to engine failure due to ash.

    Have BA quantified the costs if they had continued flying though the ban. If after every flight extra maintenance had to be done, the cost of the planes spending a few extra hours on the ground being checked, the cost of extra engineers, the disruption in schedule, what percentage of engines at £10 million a pop might need replaced, the lawyers fees and compensation after a crash.

    The flight ban probably saved them money.

  • Comment number 68.

    The word on the streets, or should it be the word on the runway, is that the ban will be lifted tomorrow at least for trans-Atlantic routes.

    We will see.

    Somehow I can't see the airlines deliberately putting their clients at risk.

    Whatever the outcome this has been a badly managed crisis.

  • Comment number 69.

  • Comment number 70.

    OK. If BA thinks it's safe to fly, fine; but I hope they will also allow their passengers to make their own decision too, and offer a refund to those who prefer not to take the risk.

  • Comment number 71.

    In my view the airlines and the government have missed a good opportunity to do some serious research into the safety aspect of flying in dispersed volcanic ash zones.
    Rather than just a couple of hours of testing, jets could have been flying test flights through the cloud for days (over the sea)....and we would all know for sure the level of danger (if any) posed by these dispersed ash zones.
    Apparently pilots were ready to do the flying.
    European aviation desperately needs this information.
    The damage caused to the airline and tourism industry could be immense, particularily if Icelands volcanos grumble om for months.
    Many people will have a "fear of travel"......being stranded, and its' financial, logistical and emotional nightmares.
    Are we closing airspace that is actually safe?.......we could have found out for certain, but didn't.

  • Comment number 72.

    Let the decision to fly, including total responsibility for what happens, lie with those like Wille Wonky at BA

    Then if one plane falls out of the sky,its 280+ cases of manslaughter to answer to, with every penny he has earnt, every item of property including pension going to victims families

  • Comment number 73.

    Anybody remember the Challenger disaster, in 1986...?

    Commercial pressure basically led to people being pressured into saying it was safe to fly.

    It wasn't, and some people knew it wasn't.

    Don't let the Airlines make the same fatal mistake....

  • Comment number 74.

    A point to note is that if a plane does crash, it culd injure/kill those on the ground. So even if pilots, cabin crew and passengers all wish to take the risk, why should BA put the lives of those on the ground at risk?

    I fail to see why the taxpayer should bail out the airlines. They should take out insurance like other companies do.

  • Comment number 75.

    Here's an interesting phenomenon...

    On the two maps, the ash cloud is clearly over Britain at 13:00 today.

    However the second picture shows a giant hole predicted in the ash cloud - if you will a giant ash hole.

    What has caused this phemonenon - it's like the volcano has stopped erupting! - has anyone seen any repors confirming this?

    Maybe this ash hole has been caused by a giant 'airline winge' - which is an frequent scene on weather maps these days.

    Isn't the power of money amazing? - I mean it's literally turned the forces of mother nature off.

    Fantastic - no wonder the banks are so keen to keep their position as money holders - he who has this power is truly a God....

  • Comment number 76.

    64. At 5:32pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    50. At 4:14pm on 19 Apr 2010, jon112uk

    AKA - Airline spokesman.

    Clearly you have no idea about probability and why a few test flights have no bearing on the 10,000 flights a day which operate out of European airspace and the probability of a disaster.

    Thats fairly weak.

    Obviously a test regime involves flying multiple flights at a range of altitudes and courses, then professional inspection for even trivial signs of damage.

    Just like KLM has been doing.

    With no damage at all. Nil. Zero.

    The 1982 plane that nearly crashed flew, in darkness, straight through the volcano plume - like you can see on the pictures of the volcano in iceland. It had its windscreen abraded to the point they could not see out in clear air, even when they landed. The paint was sandblasted off the outside of the plane - bare metal in parts. The tubes sensing airspeed were completely filled/blocked. All four engines were encrusted in a glass like coating to the point the individual fan blades were barely recognisable.

    Can you understand the difference between (a) no damage whatever and (b) near destruction of the plane? If so, then estimate the probability that you can conduct multiple tests with ZERO damage and then suddenly get worse damage than what I describe above.

  • Comment number 77.

    75. At 7:12pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    However the second picture shows a giant hole predicted in the ash cloud - if you will a giant ash hole.

    What has caused this phemonenon - it's like the volcano has stopped erupting! - has anyone seen any repors confirming this?

    It looks like your efforts with the baked beans worked old man.
    Good thinking

  • Comment number 78.

    JUST TYPICAL BA GREED>>> why should we be baling out a private and huge company such as BA, they are a company with huge assets.... if your struggling then sell some assets....

    We are not in a financial position to keep baling out companies that do not put in place for contingencies and insurances....

    the other option is to invest money as a state investment scheme and in return a share of the profits to put towards our national debt!!

  • Comment number 79.

    I hope they are safe

  • Comment number 80.

    Part of doing business is accepting risk. If the taxpayers are to bail out businesses when things go wrong, the taxpayers should receive part of the business in return. If those who invest in a business do not accept risk they cannot lose - they will win when the business makes profits and win when the taxpayer bails out the business. If business people cannot accept risk they should put their money into a building society instead - and accept the lower return.

  • Comment number 81.

    err isn't this like the banks wanting to self-regulate? Safety of a human life should be above all

  • Comment number 82.

    All to often it's the Tax Payers who are expected to bail out struggling big businesses, it's about time some of the Multi-Millionaires, or Multi-Billionaires offered to hand over some of their Multi-Millions of interest to bail out some of these struggling big business....Richard Branson, was willing to do just that when the Banks were struggling, he was blocked.
    Instead it was Tax Payers who footed the bill, and as one of these Banks went on to finance the American takeover of Cadbury, Government legislation basically forced the employees at Cadbury in Bristol to pay for their own job losses.
    Leave Tax Payers money where it is, because when a long term Tax Payer finds themselves in a position where they're unable to pay tax due to illness, they're told they're not entitled to claim certain benefits, or even if they are, there's no money to give them.

  • Comment number 83.

    Why is it that every private business when it falls on hard times or finds itself in a sticky situation because of not being able to read the markets or plan for emergency situations expects the tax payer to bail them out?
    1) Farm Subsidies.
    2) Auto Industry.
    3) Banking Industry.
    4) Legal Industry (Legal aid scheme).
    5) Building Industry (Infrastructure spending roads, hospitals)

    How about a bail out for the average family and there children who will bear the brunt of all of this debt for years to come? Gradually coming to the conclusion that the majority of these so called intelligent people that are running these businesses are not up to the job!
    So much for university education god help us !

  • Comment number 84.

    I came home this evening to find a second deposit of volcanic ash on my kitchen sky-light (first event was Saturday). I'm 30 miles east of manchester airport, high up in the peak district. It was very hazy tonight too (more dust I think).

    Not sure I would risk going up in a plane tomorrow!

    I'm on the flight path to manchester from Europe, I just hope these airlines are properly considering the risk to those on the ground too!

    I suggest in future all airlines consider taking out "business interuption insurance" as clearly their business model is broken going forward without it. This situation will go on indefinately.

    Factor that insurance into your cheap flights and air freighted food /drugs / spare parts etc. and the whole thing falls over.

    Globalisation isn't working! Let's get back to basics; manufacture our own goods, grow our own food, own and run our own banks, trade any surplus with local European neighbours.

    Definately no bail-out again, these airlines have a non-sustainable business model! Fair weather businesses...

    Let these businesses fail and then have a re-think.

  • Comment number 85.

    BA: 'Let us decide if it's safe to fly'

    Aye, and it is safe to let the drugs company salesperson to test the pateint target, efficacy and safety of those drugs, like thalidomide, and it was just hunkydoray to let the banks make all those decisions...

    Yes, BA do as you please, you have no vested interest, no short-term shareholder pressure and we turst you to deregulate.

    Hasn't anyone noticed the drove of pigs flying through the sky this weekend being chased by clans of hyenas who have taken to the air too?

  • Comment number 86.

    I suspected from the beginning that it is all just brainless automatism. The same sort of thing as someone saying the word "bomb" and as a consequence a whole airport with thousands of passengers shuts down for absolutely no reason. The officials feel safer causing economic damages of hundreds of millions a day than to allow some common sense. I believe there is essentially no scientific basis for this whole flight ban nonsense. As a matter of urgency, engine makers need to undertake tests of which aerosol concentration is acceptable and the aviation authorities need to monitor the concentrations within their teritory. Then we will know exactly, when dust becomes a potential danger to air safety and nobody will have to completely overreact again. Why did no-one bother to investigate this since the famous BA flight 28 years ago that the BBC referred to as the reason for this action?

  • Comment number 87.

    26. At 2:32pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    Now arrogant man has been slapped back into place - maybe we should have a little more respect for our environment and stop wrecking it in the chase for little green bits of paper.

    Good post WOTW.

  • Comment number 88.

    BA want the right to choose when it,s safe to start putting planes in the air, with ba it,s about making money, safety of passengers comes second, and as to willie walsh wanting compensation for air space closure, is not on. ba is a buisness, and if im right insurance companies are refusing to compensate passengers, declaring this farce as an act of god, therefore ba cannot claim compensation for lost revenue.

  • Comment number 89.

    Double dip recession!

  • Comment number 90.

    A moral case ?!!

    BA may or may not have merits in this case but millions of people have a moral case for compensations. Just think like businesses always looking for handouts and as bankers and you can see where we are all missing out.

  • Comment number 91.

    Compensation ? This one assumes extends to fog and ice then .....

  • Comment number 92.

    How can any airline with a vested interest ever make an impartial decision on whether conditions are safe to fly?

    The ultimate decision must be made by a totally independent authority and they should not be harassed and criticised by commercial companies who are only concerned with their profit margins. If BA think people would be happy to fly on that basis maybe they are so far removed from passengers opinions it's time they went bust!

  • Comment number 93.

    50. At 4:14pm on 19 Apr 2010, jon112uk wrote:

    Fair doos...

    Show me the proof!

  • Comment number 94.

    Presumably when the weather is good and the passenger numbers increase the airlines will voluntarily pass on all that extra profit to the government (please don't start with the nonsensical tax argument..unless you are really that naive about corporate finances).

    Didn't think they would!

    How many times do we have to put up with this bleating pathetic nonsense from private companies.

  • Comment number 95.

    > The airlines believe they have a moral case for
    > compensation from taxpayers

    Yeah, and pigs might fly. The coffers are most decidedly closed. I might have had some sympathy, if Willie Walsh hadn't deliberately caused a strike. But now, forget him. He's toast because his company is easily replaced and broke. Forget compo for firms like that.

  • Comment number 96.

    BA also claim they have superb relations with their staff, and RyanAir claim they are a quality service provider. Either attempting to take a moral stance is pretty laughable.

    It's all about money - panic they are not making enough is provoking a sudden willingness to risk everyone else's lives. Funny that we've not heard these assorted 'leaders of industry' heading these companies will be more than happy to travel on the first few flights through this cloud to show how much faith they have in the safety of the enterprise....

  • Comment number 97.

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

  • Comment number 98.

    4. At 1:16pm on 19 Apr 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    Maybe if Wee Willie had some profits to play with then he could have done the same - but unfortunately he "didn't see the recession coming" and therefore could only be reactive and not proactive - imposing wages freezes and cuts rather than reducing any of this giant personal salary or costs coming up to the end of the boom.

    These highly paid numskulls are really worth the money - aren't they?


    Shhhh! If people like Willie Walsh aren't treated as demigods and paid very high salaries they might take their unique skills and talents somewhere else. And that would never do, would it?

  • Comment number 99.

    Haha... It's erupted again. No fly again tomorrow. Seems like Mother Nature is having fun with you Globalists!

  • Comment number 100.

    100 ah ha!


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