A taste of things to come?

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Recent events have highlighted to us all the dependency we have on our airline industry, and how we could not live without it. Or could we?

There is no doubt that the volcanic ash cloud has caused havoc across Europe stopping many thousands of people from getting home. The media has been full of their stories of getting back without the aid of an aircraft. There have been some excellent tales, many becoming apparent ‘live’ via Twitter (the BBC F1 team being an example). Undoubtably this has caused a great deal of pain and cost to a large number of people, but how much have you heard from business about this?

I would suggest, not a lot! All of the supermarkets have today confirmed that they only get around 1% of their food via air freight, and most of that is fairly obscure food which could not be described as ‘British staple food’. As far as industry is concerned, yes there have been some issues. Nissan has had to stop production in Japan of three vehicle types due to a lack of air sensors from Ireland of all places!

I general though I would suggest that business can, and has for a while, managed a lot of its business via the web. Travel to meetings is less necessary these days because of this. The majority of people caught in the ash cloud problems are therefore it appears holiday makers. Air travel has got progressively cheaper of the past few decades, we now take long haul travel for granted. This was not the case 30 or 40 years ago, long haul was the preserve of the wealthy. People used to holiday closer to home or in Europe, travelling by car, train or boat (remember those?)

We are heading towards a time when for various reasons; CO2 emissions, fuel costs, fuel extinction etc – we will see a rise in travel costs by air. The airlines are already saying we have seen the end of budget flying – the good times are over! Perhaps what has happened over the last week is a wake up call to us all? I can see aircraft use becoming the preserve of the rich and for specialist air freight rather than something we all take for granted.

In reality the world has not ground to a halt due to the cloud, yes it has caused some problems, but equally it has highlighted some issues that need addressing to prepare us for the future. A future that is not as far away as we would like to imagine.

For the first time as a family we are looking at the possibility of driving to Southern Europe for our Summer holiday rather than flying. This time it may be an enforced decision, we have flights booked already but are looking at a ‘plan B’ for if the cloud either stays or comes back! However in future it may be that we would look at making this part of the holiday – who knows? The costs are not in fact that different – it’s mainly the time factor that is affected. Perhaps this is a slow down call for us all!

The next month will be interesting, both in terms of seeing if the cloud issue goes away, but also to see if it changes the plans of holiday planners. No one knows for example how long it will take the airlines to get back to ‘normal’ once they get the clearance to fly. Aircraft and crews are all over the place, and mostly in the wrong places! Also who is to say that we don’t get a month of clear skies and then the issue comes back again? Let’s face it the timing this time was awesome – Easter holidays! How long to the summer holidays?

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