Air Travel Update
I’m not sure how much press the whole story is getting in the US, but here this is huge! There have essentially been ZERO flights in the UK for over 80 hours, with no end in sight to the freeze – about twice a day the authorities review and (so far) extend the ban, now going to at least 7am tomorrow morning. The implications to an industry that is already on advanced life support in so many ways are quite critical (granted, the air travel industry should be good at this by now – think swine flu). One of my colleagues was supposed to leave today for Los Angeles, but has rebooked for Wednesday in the hope that things will be clear by then. A number of my colleagues are due to leave for Sydney, Australia on Thursday night and are starting to investigate alternatives, like taking an overnight train to Spain and trying to get flights there where airports are still open.
Here are some other tidbits about the situation…at Heathrow, the second-busiest airport in the world, maintenance workers are have apparently been able to inspect the runways in daylight for the first time, well, EVER. How strange is that? Also, the air shutdown really emphasizes, I think, the need for a multi-modal tranportation system. The Eurostar, which is the high-speed train through the Channel Tunnel to Paris and Brussels, has been sold out and has added extra trains where possible. The Channel Tunnel, of course, also accommodates private cars and buses on special trains as well. The ferry companies are also having record business; I read recently how, after the Eurostar service started, the primary England-to-France ferry route from Dover to Calais was “downgraded” such that it now requires a bus connection at each end from ferry to train (previously it was walk off ferry onto train platform at both sides). Given situations like these, that was perhaps a dumb move (why eliminate useful infrastructure, even if its importance has diminished?). The whole thing, of course, does make me wonder how the US would handle this, given the significantly fewer intermodal options (while Amtrak rightly trumpeted its success following September 11, 2001, it is not equipped for something like this to be sure!).
Finally, read this funny story about a marketing company exec forced to take at least seven trains, three taxis, a bus, a ferry, and a bike to get from Zurich to London!