Into the Ash Can

The ash cloud that resulted from Iceland’s volcano grounded flights across Europe and cost the airlines billions. Now that flights have resumed again, what have we learned?

First, systems are adaptive. Some 9 million people were affected. Some re-routed. Some drove. Many just camped out at the airport. There’s some comfort in numbers. Because so many were stranded, thousands of beds were brought in to the terminals.

Second, bad news for the airlines isn’t bad for everyone. Travelers may have been stuck, but they still spent their travel dollars. But look out for the airlines looking for another bail out.

Finally, Europe has another thing to learn from the Yanks. Alaska Air has been flying around volcanic ash ever since the Mount St. Helens blast in 1980. They have detailed training and procedures that could have kept much of Europe’s fleet in the air. But no one asked.

Flying’s a great way to travel. But the old saw still applies: “Time to spare, go by air.”

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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