Mercifully, the disruption to air travel as a result of the latest eruption in Iceland, this time of the Grimsvötn volcano, was restricted to just two days. It is clear that a great deal has been learned since last year’s much lengthier period of disruption, not least that aircraft can fly with impunity in anything short of high density ash.
So it was rather disconcerting to read the comments of the outspoken Michael O’Leary of Ryanair to the effect that there was no high density ash cloud and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should just let airlines get on with the business of flying. This claim was based on the fact that a Ryanair flight over Scotland on Tuesday encountered no ash. The CAA retorted that the flight in question went nowhere near the high density cloud and anyway Ryanair had provided no evidence of an absence of ash on the aircraft.
Mr O’Leary is, evidently, unrepresentative of airlines as a whole. Loganair/Flybe, which operate the services to and from Shetland, took a much more responsible position. Most people will have noticed a coating of dust on their cars, washed down by the heavy rain showers. Environment agency Sepa confirmed yesterday that this was indeed from the Icelandic volcano.
It is clear that with high fuel costs, greater competition and tougher regulations, among other factors, many airlines are in financially straitened positions. But the bottom line should never be more important than passenger safety. That way, disaster lies.