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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Ashy delays

Iceland's volcano shuts down air travel over Europe

What event can shutdown thousands of commercial flights over Europe and even make the President of the United States avoid air travel?
Eyjafjallajökull.
This isn't gibberish but rather a volcano in the southern part of Iceland.
The skies over Europe have been absent airplanes since late last week. Plumes of volcanic ash have billowed into the sky and many commercial flights have been cancelled since March 16th.
The scary part is that on Monday, a group of European airlines asked the European Union for compensation for losses suffered because of the cancellation of 22,000 flights, according to Bloomberg News.
The airlines cite that because the EU didn't consult with them about closing down the air space, they feel that they have the right to be compensated. It almost seems that the airlines wanted to fly into dangerous ash, risking the lives of thousands of paying customers.
Here is a crazy thought, how about if the airlines knew how much dangerous volcanic ash there is? Currently the European Aviation Safety Agency doesn't have a clue. And if flights were to occur and crash there would be a lot more damage done than just flowers going bad.
Many carriers, such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France, have reportedly lost close to $200 million a day. But airlines aren't the only groups losing money as a result of the no fly zone.
Kenya has had to destroy 400 tons of flowers to be sold in England. Pharmaceutical companies have had to dispose of medications that have a very short self-life due to the restrictions in shipping.
The reason why this volcanic ash is so dangerous is because the eruption took place under a glacier. The cold water from the melting ice cooled the lava down too quickly, causing the water to fragment into very small pieces of glass and ash that was sent into the atmosphere. The particles disrupt a jet engine's turbine from spinning, causing engine failure.
Ships, rather than airfreight, transport 98 percent of the world's goods. Many of the airlines are citing the United States government bailout of its airlines after 9/11. And it is a pretty safe bet that cargo ships are available because of the global downturn.
It seems like a money grab by the airlines. Things haven't been going well for the airline industry. After all, when companies need to start charging for pillows and blankets things cannot be good.
The major issue at play here is that neither the governments nor airlines had any idea of what to do in case a scenario should occur. Not much else is known about how to deal with such situations. Only theories.
The last big eruption from Eyjafjallajokull, in 1821, spewed ash for over a year. But the bigger problem may be Kalta, Eyjafjallaokull's neighbor volcano, which could erupt as well. Archeological evidence shows that Kalta has been even more destructive.
The impact of the eruption has been small, except for its effect on the airlines and travelers. But if a prolonged shutdown occurs, Europe's economy will slowly grind to a halt.
Tourists will fail to arrive, business meetings will be delayed and supplies will dwindle since airfreight cannot arrive.
Airlines have been struggling for years, due to mismanagement and poor business models. Not because of events like this.


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