Safety Is Number One Priority in Volcanic Crisis
Wednesday 21, April 2010
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) issued a statement to its members today, calling for guarded optimism regarding the potential for resumption of air service throughout Europe.
Reports that air travel restrictions over Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom (London) will begin tomorrow, following a substantial decrease in Icelandic volcanic activity, were received with relief, as hundreds of thousands of business travelers journeying to, from, or through affected parts of Europe found themselves stranded all around the world. It is anticipated that travel will be restored to as much as 30 percent of Europe within 72 hours as test flights of commercial aircraft through lighter dispersal of volcanic ash revealed no problems.
ACTE leaders cautioned their members to develop several alternatives for travel planning that involves Europe as the volcanic activity in Iceland is highly unpredictable and that situation the could be reversed on short notice. According to a statement issued by ACTE President Richard Crum today, members were reminded that another flare-up of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano could again result in additional restrictions.
ACTE is in the process of completing a global survey of member companies with tens of thousands of travelers currently on the road - in the areas most affected by the volcanic ash clouds - to determine the extent (personal, corporate, and economic) of the the flight restrictions.
"Safety first has always been ACTE's primary concern," said Crum. "While restricting flights resulted in great inconvenience to millions of travelers, and an estimated loss of $200 million (USD) to the international airline industry, the decision to proceed cautiously with rescinding air travel restrictions was undoubtedly the right one." Even with a gradual rescinding of travel restrictions, the first mechanical difficulty experienced by a commercial flight in an ash cloud area could prompt a return to airport closures, he added.
ACTE also reminded stranded business travellers to respect their corporate travel policies and not to circumvent pre-existing plans due to these extraordinary circumstances. "Erupting volcanoes are seldom the first things that come to mind when one considers major travel disruptions and delays," said ACTE President-Elect Chris Crowley, a British national who has been personally delayed at a business destination in the United States for the past five days. "It is critical that business travelers do not compromise their corporate travel protocols in a random fashion to return home or proceed on the next leg of their trip. Doing so could jeopardize their safety, make them much harder to locate if the problem increases, and could result in stranding them at other more remote destinations along the way."
ACTE leadership has received reports that rental cars, chauffeured transportation and commuter flights in countries on the edge of the ash area are all booked, while rail service is running to 100 percent capacity, with hundreds of people waiting on each platform. The association is also monitoring claims that business travelers are attempting to charter buses, aircraft, or even purchase helicopters (to fly under the ash clouds) to continue traveling.
"While the situation represents a major inconvenience, and may be placing business travellers under a lot of duress, either personally or professionally, attempting to resolve this difficulty by circumventing the travel policy could substantially increase traveller risk," said Crum.
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