Employers are counting the cost of the disruption caused by the eruption last month of a volcano in Iceland – just as the continuing ash cloud forced Ireland and parts of Scotland to close their airspace again.
The plume of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused travel chaos for a week in April after Europe closed much of its airspace due to safety concerns. The Irish Aviation Authority and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority are now monitoring the current situation, but are concerned that ash concentrations exceed acceptable engine manufacturer tolerance levels.
The IAA said that, based on a new safety regime imposed in Europe last week, officials had no choice but to impose a no-fly zone from 7am to 1pm today, resulting in the cancellation of flights to and from the Republic of Ireland. Flights have also been suspended to Northern Ireland, the Outer Hebrides and Argyll in the north of Scotland.
The news came to light as a survey undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) indicated that the biggest single impact for employers of last month’s European transport paralysis was the fact that staff were stuck overseas, a difficulty hitting 72% of the 2,000 HR professionals questioned.
A mere 22% said that the situation had not affected their organisation at all, while 6% experienced problems in relation to import and export activity.
The London Mayor’s office put the cost to the capital of the incident at £100 million in lost tourist revenues as hotel occupancies dropped by 25% and visitor numbers to theatres, restaurants and shops plummeted.
The European Union’s transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, indicated, meanwhile, that the eruption had led to more than 100,000 flights being cancelled and more than 10 million passengers being unable to travel. Based on preliminary estimates, the cost to the aviation industry and tour operators alone was thought to be between E1.5 billion and E2.5 billion (£2.15 billion).