Trapped on an Island

Sorry I have been a little quiet for a while but I found myself caught up in the recent air travel chaos.  During the Easter break we were convinced by some friends to go with them to their place in Madeira, a small island off the coast of Portugal.  A 4 hour flight, total ticket cost around $200, bargain!  The spirits were conspiring to tell me to go. 

A weeks’ vacation in the sun, fantastic, after the weeks of snow and ice we have endured this winter it was going to be great.  Too good to miss. 

Madeiras’ weather is pretty constant all year.  But our vacation had gales, heavy rain, mud slides, but worse of all no easy access to the internet. 

By day 5 a volcano erupted on Iceland and all air traffic in Europe was grounded, you may have seen something about it on CNN.  There was talk of the sun being blocked out by reflective sulphur gasses.  A return to the ice age, and the end of humanity as we know it?  The Icelandic Prime Minister talked of us re-balancing our relationship with nature, not sure what this means, a volcano still looks a lot stronger than us, even with the combined nuclear arsenals of the world.  

People started to travel without airlines, ship, cars and even trains, remember them?  were brought into people’s thinking as they desperately tried to get home.  The power and draw that home has is overwhelming.  Highly inflated prices were charged by organisations that should have known better, and paid, not only by the rich and famous, but by ordinary people who couldn’t really afford it. 

Most people were looking for someone to blame and took every opportunity to vent their anger and frustration on airline staff, who to my best recollection had no power over volcanoes, or the aviation regulator to allow planes to fly.  There will be many inflated claims for costs and expenses as opportunist see the chance of making the big company pay.  It is a sad reflection of the human condition that we need to do this.

To balance this there were stories of unsolictored help and kindest, the story of a young women travelling with small children and babies who was presented with food and baby necessities by a stranger who walked up to her in the airport, then disappeared back into the crowd, or the small boats that sailed to northern France to bring people back across the English Channel, btw the French don’t call that stretch of water the “English” Channel.     

But the overwhelming story is one of official fear , panic and the inability to get things done quickly, and individual greed and self preservation, combined with need to find someone, anyone, to blame.   

After six days of turmoil you would have been proud of us, we allowed economics, the airlines were losing $200m per day, to bring us to a sense of reality.    There had been talk of a bail out, similar to the one done for the banks.    The ill informed caution of those had the power to stop the world from operating was overcome.  The situation brings in to sharp focus the power of the big companies who have the influence to change government decisions, while saying that their first concern is the safety of their passengers.   

In spite of all the chaos and disruption, nothing has been permanently destroyed or damaged, and in the coming days the news channels will move on to a new story and the public will forget.  How fickle they are...   until the floor of Yellowstone Lake, that is raising an inch every year, gives way, and the world will really change forever. 

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By Steve Knowles - More than 25 years in business and practice in the UK means that there is very little that I haven't seen before.  But I also worked on your side of the pond and I have spent too many hours on planes and in airports.  But the years haven't dulled my way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and everyday is a new adventure.

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