Just How Badly Did the Volcanic Ash Screw the Airline Industry?
If you're wondering why the blame game over Europe's Big Ash Problems is growing so heated, the preliminary economic figures trickling out of the Continent should put things into perspective. Airlines have grown increasingly strident in blaming the European Union for hysterical and uninformed overreacting, and European Union officials have grown increasingly rueful because that's probably effing true.
The official number on lost airfare is currently hovering at $1.7 billion, plus or minus a few, but that doesn't take into account hotel rooms and food. EU laws on traveler compensation are so strict - and so clear-cut - that even Ryanair had to back down from their initial stance and reimburse customers for those costs. Add all of that up and you're looking at airline losses hovering somewhere north of three billion dollars. Not the best situation for an industry that was already teetering on the brink of collapse.
The situation has created a surreal public relations race. Airlines are trying to get out in front of the EU by demanding full compensation for the unnecessary airspace shutdown. The EU is hoping to compensate them only in part, and would like the news story to kind of go away.
Below that are national politics. Individual governments are probably not allowed to bail out their own airlines, since that would be a de facto subsidy in violation of EU regulations. But no country is going to let its flagship airline fail just because the EU's Transportation ministers couldn't get together for a conference call after the first eruption, which is why the continent's airspace remained closed for so long. Not a good situation for anyone.
[Photo: Alasdair McLellan / Wiki Commons]
· Volcanic Ash Crisis Cost Airlines $1.7 Billion [Asia Travel Tips]
· Europe Travel [Jaunted]
· Big Ash Problems [Jaunted]