The Vibe from Abroad – The most expensive short break ever

Following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland, more than 63 000 flights have been cancelled since Thursday, April 15, when the travel chaos across Europe began.

In the UK, there are no apocalyptic clouds of ash; there is just a barely perceptible layer of dust on the car, but what are noticeable are the brilliant blue skies and an eerie quiet across the land. More than 22 000 flights cross our airspace every day, so you can imagine how weird it is without the noise and pollution.

There has been no emptying of shelves at the supermarkets; it seems we can survive without mangos from Ghana, avocados from South Africa and beans from Kenya.  What’s to eat locally, I wonder?

The action is to be found at the ferry and Eurostar terminals as more than 150 000 Brits attempt to get home. Many of them have endured journeys of epic proportions; a friend re-enacted the family Von Trapp’s journey from Venice, by water bus, “sleeper” train, five commuter trains, a very expensive long-distance taxi, minibus, car, and P&O Ferry, via Austria, Germany and Netherlands. This five-day break, thanks to the fine-print in the insurance policy conditions, will now cost around R60 000!

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the situation will have improved, but according to fluid news reports this looks unlikely in the short term. I am no scientist, but I understand that the volcanic ash can damage aircraft engines, but no one knows to what extent. The last time this volcano erupted, in 1820, and spewed ash into the air for two years, flying commercially was a long way off. So the great and good of the aviation industry don’t know for certain what they’re dealing with. There are now calls from the airline industry to lift this ban, but if the authorities were to open the skies, even partially, the scenario facing each government is; what if there are then mayday calls from stricken aircraft trying to land?

This year is bound to be remembered for two things; a successful World Cup and a year of massive travel disruption, due in main to natural events. Thank goodness this eruption is happening in April.

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