travel chaos

I heard from a friend and colleague last night that they were struggling to get home after a recent holiday in Lanzarote as a result of the flight ban caused by the volcanic ash plume spewing its way from Iceland. The last I’d heard they were en route to the French border having left Barcelona some hours earlier. Heaven only knows how and when they’ll get back and at what cost. This morning I checked into the news channels to see what the latest situation was, especially as the flight ban had been lifted late last night. It wasn’t terribly reassuring.

It seems that there could be up to 150,000 people still stranded around the world, many attempting to get back via a combination of outrageously expensive trains, planes,boats and automobiles. Some of the people interviewed looked pretty desperate – it wasn’t just a question of money; the key concern seemed to be that no matter where people were – foreign airports, the channel ports, British embassies – there was absolutely no information being offered to reassure people about how and when they’d be getting home. They were just being left to figure it out for themselves.

And what were officials here saying about the situation? Well it was all blame transferrence as usual. The head of the CAA this morning denied that it was their decision to cancel flights over the UK – apparently this was an international decision. Oh really? And when asked why the decision had been suddenly reversed last night when apparently earlier in the day we’d been told that a fresh plume of dangerous ash was heading our way. Was it, he was pressed, anything to do with the 26 BA flights heading towards British airspace – effectively the airlines putting pressure on the authorities to reverse their ban? Absolutely not he claimed; it was because new vital reassuring evidence had just been delivered which showed that the risks were no longer critical. Ah how fortuitous. And the Government Minister for Transport was even more evasive this morning. Had the Government mishandled this whole  situation and would they be offering compensation to people and the airlines etc? Well he couldn’t possibly be responsible could he? This whole ban was the responsibility of  ‘aviation experts’…..  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Look I know this was an act of God and couldn’t have been foreseen and that passenger safety is paramount. If it’s not safe to allow planes to fly so be it. But listening to experts justify about-turns on ‘critical’ safety decisions, whilst the crass lack of inaction shown by everybody in supposed control whilst thousands of people are really struggling is frankly obscene. A warship has been despatched to pick up some troops in N Spain (two others are somewhere in the N Sea) and some coaches are being organised in Madrid for a few lucky stranded tourists. But that seems to be about it. I don’t think history will recall the last 6 days as Lord Adonis’ Dunkirk moment. Done-bugger-all-as-usual might be more appropriate.

Tonight sees the second in the series of debates with the 3 party leaders. If I was Clegg I seize the moment to go for the jugular and harangue Brown for showing absolutely no leadership nor decsiveness over this sad sad episode. He should point his finger at the PM and demand that the sorry bunch of feeble nitwits who are supposed to be running the aviation show be sacked instantly. This is the moment to kill off this pathetic excuse for an administration in this country which has totally lost its moral purpose. That ash cloud could have a silver lining after all .


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