Many have begun to question the need for the ban on air travel in Europe last week, which impacted thousands of travelers in most countries all over the world causing canceled flights, rerouted trips (if you were in mainland Europe), and a lot of stress. There have been stories in every media outlet that spoke of the plight of families traveling on vacation and trying to return home so the children could go to school, or of a business person who was trying to get back to work so he could seal a deal for his company, and this has brought about the question, “Was the air traffic ban necessary?”
To put it in the simplest term known to man, yes, the airline ban was necessary. This is one situation in which it is literally impossible for the airline regulatory agencies in Europe to escape criticism.
And why is this so? Because it was either take precautionary measures and ground all flights in the affected areas or you could take the “don’t do anything until something goes wrong approach” and well…do exactly that. The European Union could have waited to do something until a flight got into trouble flying through the volcanic ash and either incur severe damage after landing or possibly even crashing.
They made this decision based on the plight of British Airways Flight 9, which was flying from London, England, to Auckland, New Zealand, with five stopovers between the two cities. As the plane was over Indonesian airspace, it encountered large amounts of volcanic ash from Mount Galunggung, which resulted in the failure of all four engines almost simultaneously. As the plane kept traveling, the cockpit window was blasted and completely covered in the volcanic ash resulting in only a very small sliver of the window clear enough to be seen through. After descending from 37,000 feet to 13,000 feet, the pilots were able to restart the engines because they had cleared the ash cloud by then. The pilots then diverted the flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Who can blame the Europeans for shutting down the airspace? No one. It was a precautionary step—they did not want something bad to happen and then have a disaster occur. I would hope that we, everyone else, would have done the same thing in their situation.
In fact, they’re still taking precautions. The fastest way to get to Europe is to make a curve far to the north over the Atlantic when going from the United States to Europe; but right now, they’re making flights fly much farther south which is costing them more because the flights require more fuel because it is technically a longer distance even though it may not look like it on a map.