Thursday, April 22, 2010

Notes from an ashen-faced commentator

A volcano erupted last week in Iceland and British airspace was closed from Thursday until yesterday. It is amazing how instantly disruptive this was. Thousands of people have been stranded and huge damage has been done to businesses, including the one I work for. Several members of my family are still stuck in various places and though the airlines are now free to fly, the schedules will be screwed up for some time to come as the planes and the crews are brought back to base.

The ash from the volcano - especially dangerous because it exploded its way through a glacier on top of the vent - was thought likely to damage aircraft engines. After a few days  the news was dominated by stories of desperate people fighting over hotel rooms, taking taxis hundreds of miles, running out of money and finding their visas invalid in foreign countries. The airlines were incurring huge losses and they put huge pressure on the authorities and the official line changed. Ash concentrations thought to be dangerous were downgraded and suddenly it was ok to fly, provided the volcano continued to die down.

We will no doubt continue to import food and flowers and other perishables from all over the world. Perhaps we will try to be just a little less dependant in future. There will be other volcanoes and they could erupt a lot longer and a lot bigger next time. I have long been disenchanted with air travel and this year Mrs. Commuter and I will be using train and car instead, and if this restricts us to the UK and Western Europe, no problem at all.

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