The unfriendly skies…

Who could have ever have imagined that just as concrete signs were forming that the economic recovery is more than just the stuff of imagination, a big old volcano – about 700,000 years old give-or-take – lurking under kilometres of ice would go and blow its top. The eruption of the Icelandic volcano lying under […]


Who could have ever have imagined that just as concrete signs were forming that the economic recovery is more than just the stuff of imagination, a big old volcano – about 700,000 years old give-or-take – lurking under kilometres of ice would go and blow its top. The eruption of the Icelandic volcano lying under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier did something no terrorist strike, no economic calamity, no viral outbreak has so far managed in the history of modern aviation – it shut down virtually every major air hub in Europe for six days.

With carriers only starting to recover financially from last year’s economic mayhem, this was a body blow. With tens-of-thousands of passengers stranded and many thousands of tonnes of cargo piled high for days-on-end, carriers must have wondered what in heaven’s name they did to deserve this latest cruel twist of fate.

But as the days wore on with no relenting by European aviation authorities the criticisms began mounting higher than the idle cargo which from Asia to Europe alone amounted to 10,000 tonnes a day of high value, time-sensitive, and perishable goods.

The authorities were too fast to close the airspace, didn’t have adequate scientific evidence, didn’t coordinate properly amongst themselves and just made bad decisions. Instead of blanket closures of national airspace critics argued a more scientific assessment of the actual situation concerning the spread of volcanic ash was clearly needed. Data should have been more widely shared and collaborative decision making involving all interested stakeholders would have helped produce a more accurate risk assessment.