April 21st, 2010
01:26 PM GMT
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London, England - At just before 10pm I ran out of my house last night to witness the first British Airways plane flying overhead as it made its approach into Heathrow.

The plane's arrival not only showed the ban on UK travel imposed due to volcanic ash had ended but also broke the silence that west London has enjoyed for five days.

At Heathrow the next day I watch flight after flight take off on the north runway as things quickly got back to normal.

I can't help but wonder if we, the airlines, the airports and the companies in general have learned lessons from this.

One woman I met had no luggage while stranded at Heathrow because her bags were being transferred when the airport shut.

Friends have been emailing from where ever they are stuck telling of missed meetings and conferences.

Schools are having to find supply teachers and I know one family stuck in New York who did a house swap with a family staying in their London house.

Will companies do more teleconferences? Will people take fewer vacations this year in case the volcano acts up again? Will authorities listen to airlines more next time and let them take some of the rick after an eruption? Will airports buy more water and blankets to help stranded passengers? Will hotels be in trouble for doubling room rates - as some did here at Heathrow.

I for one will carry on more clothes and not put credit cards in checked bags.

Will you or your company do anything different or will all just go back to normal by next week?

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Filed under: Air industry

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Michael Mace

    Back to normal, as usual.
    Mankind lost hability to learn. Or refuses to learn.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  2. Ateesh Dwivedi

    I'm not sure about what my employer would do, however, I would prefer video conference / audio conference over travel. Not only it saves costs and time but is more useful if you want to discussthings with people at various different places. All can not be together via travel all the time.

    I see that people who have travelled abroad are more understanding of the gravity of such chaos, than those who see it theoritically.

    Yes, when I read news about schools penalising teachers for being away from work, some other companies treating their stranded employees likewise, I wonder that we forget commonsense when there is monetary pressure. It money that drives everything, and you can see than in dire situations like this. Alas, this is true!

    April 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Paul H

    I have to say that many hotels that I know at Heathrow (including the one that I work at) did NOT double their rates over this period, if anything we have reduced our rates to accommodate guests.
    Our ADR (Average Daily Rate) over these last few days has actually been lower than we were forecasting a couple of weeks ago for this week.
    My hotel has suffered this week and has lost a fair amount of money and judging by the metrics that we get to measure ourselves against our competitors, they have been hit worse.

    Lazy journalism takes one sentence to give a company a bad name and others jump on the bandwagon.

    Hopefully the guests we have had have been happy with the service we've provided and travel back now with the feeling that we have been fair with them.

    April 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  4. power4things

    Frequent flyers carry "survival kits" with them for unplanned layovers, they happen. I have checked into a deserted airport hotel at midnite, or slept across a bench in Departures, just enough times to know what to carry. BTW, if you're still putting credit cards in checked luggage, you should ride the bus.

    April 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  5. Norman Holesh

    I am in Italy and trying to make sense of what has happened

    One thing is clear is that there is little co-ordination between the airlines, the news, the airports and the internet.

    Each has a differnt interpretation of the facts of the moment.

    Shame on the airlines for even thinking of asking for compensation. They should be only too happy to have been grounded, they lost less than when they operate. They truly have become a model of inefficieny – a business study in the waiting

    April 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Sebastian

    In my case the main difference is that my despise for EU government, its clueless politicians and bureaucrats has doubled.

    April 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  7. alberto

    Man can and does learn. But he has learned over the years of continued crisis of all kinds to be pragmatic, and to take the critical paths of life in the most economical and carefree way, even at the stake of causing with that approach inconveniences to those he serves in all walks of life. This is the way of the world today, a world of survival of the witiest ,where profits mean everything, and the other values of life come second. When will this change ?? Maybe we need another ash cloud to begin resetting our values as humans, for only when we are under these threats is that we become humanized instead of profitized. Imagine !!

    April 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  8. Chris - stranded in UK and getting out shortly

    Going back to normal may not be such a bad thing...maybe with a caveat. May just be a bit if a mind change. A bit more prepared, a bit more open minded, but I certianly hope things will go back to normal.

    Living in fear of volcanos or terror attacks would be a terrible thing. What is the point, then. To never travel to Europe because of the fear of one of the Canary Islands sinking off the cost of Spain and creating a massive tidal wave back to NYC and not be able to get back home??? (that could happen).

    Appreciate what you have, open your mind to possibilities, but please..by all means get back on with your normal life.

    April 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Jose Menezes - Portugal

    I will demand free wireless internet at airports and even at entire cities facing an event requiring an individual's access to information and prompt reaction. Ones capability to organize properly depends on that (rebooking online or buying a train / bus ticket on-line etc).

    It is not acceptable
    (1) to receive from flag companies doing airtravel a slip with a single number to floaded call center
    (2) that some hotels do not have CNN and other cable news around the clock with news floing as realy from those first sources
    (3) that workers strike during such events (railway workers in France making that alternative unavailable)
    (4) that contingency planning at all levels (air carriers, airport authorities and trans/national authorities) is so poor to the point that no flag company or major airport organized any bus or train routes for its passenger in several days
    (5) that airports are not required to have all major railway systems connnecting them to big cities or even TGV networks that can function as back up

    ... and yes I could go on as to individual do's and dont's.

    As someone caugth in such an event for sevral days, I saw the events like this also bring out the best in people. Lets see now how carriers, airport and aviation authorities take it from here – after this wake up call.

    We will now perhaps see the domino effect of depleted stocks at several compnies (e.g., pharmaceutical) and modern magangement practices of just-in-time, unravel as companies halt production or get impaired by the disruption caused not only by a vulcano but by greed again, poor management and lack of proper planing before hand.

    April 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Salamatu waziri

    Thanks be to Allah,i pray everything to come back to normal.

    April 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  11. Muhammad Ali

    May it not happen again.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
  12. Mark

    Things will return to normal soon. I have learned from experience that you have to expect the unexpected when traveling. Delays and cancelled flights happen on a regular basis, although rarely to this extreme. Always carry necessary medications with you (and bring extra). Why you would ever pack your credit cards in your suitcase is beyond me. When traveling with kids, plan ahead for delays. Budget for emergencies too. It's your job to be prepared – not the airline and certainly not the government. Lastly, be prepared to roll with the punches. Getting angry and frustrated doesn't get you anywhere sooner.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  13. Seth

    Aircraft operators shd use this as a lesson so as to put facilities dat can keep travellers in good hospitable mood in case of flight failure.

    April 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  14. ssyoki

    oh did you use to put credit cards in your checked luggage?

    April 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  15. Norman Holesh

    Just an addendum to my earlier comment.

    Flew from Milan to Brussles this evening – 82 seats in the plane, 32 of them empty.

    How is this possible with all the people all over Europe that cannot move?

    Is it possible that the airlines are manipulating the loads or am I being too cynical?

    April 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  16. D. U.K.

    We will be back to normal, as usual. As long as there are lawyers advising politicians about not taking risks, and as long as they live by "the safest car is the one that is never driven and the safest plane is the one that does not fly" fiascos like that will be happening. This was the second the past year, first the swine flu "pandemic" and now the "zero tolerance on volcanic dust" that overnight changed to "0.002 g per cubic meter" (the current concentration was 0.00001 g per cubic meter, i.e. 200 time less). No indication on how did these limits come upon and how much testing, if any, was done. I can foresee, but do not hope to happen, that if a plane has an accident because of the volcanic ash we will be told, at least here in the UK, that it was because it was "the wrong type of volcanic ash".
    So yes, we will be back to normal!!!

    April 21, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  17. TexasHarry

    I travel a lot to the Middle East, usually transferring flights in London or Frankfurt. Never again. I will never use airports north of Madrid for any of my future travel.

    April 23, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  18. Hiam Halabi

    what about your contingency plan and business continuty , desaster recovery plan , should all be revisited , if we learned from nature lessons

    April 24, 2010 at 4:52 am |
  19. brianinq8

    Mark Twain once said "Everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it." What can we do about volcano eruptions? Nothing but DEAL. Our world will always change and many times not to our design; what we must learn to do is accept that this is the way it is, and prepare our MINDS, along with our baggage. My heart goes out to those who were stranded for so long with little hope or information for they have truly suffered as many of us have not.

    April 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  20. NK

    We for one put an extra pair of clothes in your hand luggage for once.

    April 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  21. Andreas

    "They should be only too happy to have been grounded, they lost less than when they operate."

    You are mistaken. Aircraft, facilities and staff don't stop costing when they are on the ground.

    April 25, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  22. stoik

    I doubt that this story will serve as a lesson and will improve the quality of passenger service.

    April 26, 2010 at 5:52 am |
  23. Jimbo

    Yeah, because you never know when the next volcano may spew volcanic ash into the air! You have to laugh at Texas Harry and the lovely American mentality...
    Do you still say similar things like "I'll never travel to America incase those pesky terrorists strike again" or "I'm not sure if I will sail on the Atlantic because I hear those icebergs are really nasty"?? I don't think so.

    Its one of those things unfortunately, its a natural disaster. As they say, Sh*t happens. I expect that your tone may well have been changed if a plane had fallen out of the air. I guess now you can go back to thinking about your business and how much money you're making today!

    April 26, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  24. Anita

    There were many who 'profited' from this natural disaster – the ferries, and Chunnel trains between mainland Europe and the UK, for example, doubled their fare during this time. Shocking and very wrong. As a public service, they should have been 'public minded'. But rail fares in mainland Europe stayed the same. Good for them. We were actually contemplating driving from Budapest to London.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  25. Casey A. Moore

    I believe there should be a website that specifically lists the hotels that engaged in price gouging during this crisis.
    The lack of accountability only contributes to the problem. We, as the consumer, have the power to refuse to stay at certain hotels or fly the airlines which have proven to choose to take advantage of us during our most vulnerable times.
    Being an informed consumer is slightly time consuming, however it is our closest chance at empowerment and justice in a growing global capitalist economy.

    April 27, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  26. Twty

    As far as i'm concerned,the decision by the EU govts to shut down their airspace was the correct one. The airlines actually have the impunity to ask for compensation. If any plane had crashed,which was very likely especially in the first 2-3 days, we'd be singing a different tune today.
    They should simply just count their losses and move on...

    April 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  27. Mayumbe

    I'am working in one of the airlines call centre! What make stuns it's when pax call us to give certificat of what happens for the children who missed school! I means all the world knew abt the Volcano n the closure of the airtraffic! Hoe some schools are still doubting abt that n punished delayed pupils n student instead to take the opportunity to have and exta lesson on Volcano and natural sismique activities! I dont want to let you know how we were floaded at the Call Centre and how passengers were insulting us like we were the cause of this volcanic Eruption! We try our best to accommodate according the airline policy of irregularities whic was different for normal irregularities if I can say so!

    But we have to think again, the wolrd become so resiliant that we forget that there is a Man upstair who manage His Creations and NOBODY can go against it! Just check for what happen around the world since the begin of 2010 (earthquaker, flood, volcano, etc....)! Things we cannot control us humain but are affected! So who are we to complain to compare to the victime of Earthquaker in Haiti! Because we were stranded in one of the Airport in Europ for 3-4 days our of our comfort Zone! Thinks again!

    And please, we heard people who left money, credit Card, jewlellery, heart medications even diamond on Checked Baggage! Really, How do you do it?

    May 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  28. Paul Knox

    We will begin to learn after a billion people die from the waste and inability to see the obvious future...

    May 2, 2010 at 10:10 pm |

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