• April 2010 UK Airspace closure: Experience and impact on the UK’s air-travelling

      Miller, Servel; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2011-04-13)
      Ash emitted from the Eyjafjallajökull Icelandic volcano and which drifted into UK airspace resulted in the airspace being closed between the 14th and 20th of April 2010. The airport closure resulted in over a million travellers being affected and highlighted the shortcomings of airlines, travel agencies and governments to respond adequately to such crisis. In the current (2010) economic climate, where airline and travel companies are declaring themselves bankrupt with increased frequency, it is imperative that passengers do not lose confidence in the industry, which may impact directly on the industry’s continuing economic viability. Understanding passengers’ experiences is crucial to remedying negative experiences and harnessing ‘good practice’ for the advancement of the industry. To gain a better understanding of the crisis and its impact, a questionnaire was administered to members of the UK air-travelling public immediately after the airspace was re-opened. This research highlights the problems faced by passengers throughout the crisis and the way it impacted on their lives and livelihoods. Analysis of the survey results indicates two general themes regarding passengers’ support during the crisis. First, the needs for accommodation support during the crisis, and second, the need for effective, efficient, timely and reliable communication during the crisis, particularly to those stranded overseas. The latter is the dominant theme and the one that caused passengers the most stress, anxiety and inconvenience. Just over 90% of all those surveyed highlighted the failure of airline, travel agencies and/or government to provide timely and appropriate information as the major issue during the airspace closure. The airspace closure also caused adverse health impacts, with seventy-percent of respondents highlighting this as a concern. Although passengers were greatly inconvenienced and found their insurance cover insufficient during the crisis, fifty-six percent indicated that they would not take out additional ash cloud cover, with most citing the risk as too low to warrant it and/or the additional expense too much. Seventy-nine percent of respondents indicated that the crisis had little or no impact on their decision to fly in the future