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Sunday 18 April 2010

Push Coming To Shove

With the volcanic eruption in Iceland has come Europe wide travel chaos: in many countries, the airspace has simply been closed down, with no commercial flights operating. And, at first, the airlines complied, but now, with every day bringing zero receipts and outgoings still to pay, the disquiet has started.

Why isn’t the cloud of volcanic ash moving away? Simple: the Atlantic jet stream is still tracking far further south than usual, as it was during the depths of the past winter. Then, it meant the usual south westerly prevailing wind turned to a north easterly and we got cold air off the continent. Now, it means the fallout from the eruption is hanging around for an awfully long time.

So folks can’t travel, and neither can any freight, which nowadays means not just mail, but much imported produce: supermarkets are running out of those more exotic fruit and veg, which in many cases has waited so long for transport that it has rotted away.

First to question the strictness of the no-fly edict has been Air France and KLM, nowadays two parts of the same airline, who have conducted test flights. Not far behind has been BA, with CEO Willie Walsh on board their 747 as it has taken a trip out over the Atlantic approaches. There is discontent over the severity of the decision to close countries’ airspace, but nobody wants to make a move until we know that flying would be safe despite the stuff hanging in the upper atmosphere.

And there is only limited mileage in considering getting the EU (or anyone else) to tide the carriers over. The initial results from test flights are encouraging, but for now we’ll have to be just that little more patient.

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