Volcanic Communication

Well. I know that this has been rumbling on for a while now, and, frankly, from a communications point of view, there’s not been much to say. Volcano, ash cloud, danger to human life, ‘planes grounded. As Aleksandr the Meerkat would have it, simples. But we’re now entering a smoke and fire scenario, or possibly, a smoke scenario involving mirrors, depending on who you are and your point of view and it merits a few moments thought.

Firstly, and obviously, there’s no smoke without fire. (Or in this case, no ash without superheated gases.) By which I mean if the aviation experts say that ash in the atmosphere can cause aircraft engines to fail – and provide examples of same – then it’s fair to say that flying when there is ash in the atmosphere is most definitely Not A Good Thing. There was a bloke on the TV last night who spelt it out quite well – so well that I almost choked on my glass of wine – when he said “if the engines fail, everyone will die”. (I’m paraphrasing slightly.)

Then there are mirrors within the smoke, which is there, obviously, because of the fire. The airlines are losing hundreds of millions of pounds through not being able to fly. And as the situation continues, there’s been an increase in the number of airlines voicing the opinion that it’s perfectly safe to fly – if you’re careful – and that they’ve sent ‘planes up (one with a CEO on it – see how safe it is, if we’re prepared to risk our CEO!) and the ‘planes have come down again completely unscathed. Now I’m but one cynical step away from suggesting that, despite the fact that there is a risk (and I’ll misquote bloke again “if the engines fail, everyone will die”), it isn’t a big risk and – well, set the risk against the money being lost and – hell – get the ‘planes in the air!

Despite the fact that two F-16s flew into the ash yesterday and sustained damage to their engines.

Meanwhile, here on the ground, I can’t see the ash, and I’m relying on the media to assure me that it’s there. Cue the conspiracy theorists who would have me believe that there IS NO ASH and, in fact, the closing of airspace is in reaction to a real and present threat of international terrorism identified by the European governments. Which, if true, wouldn’t make the airlines’ decision to start flying again any less reprehensible.

And as this is, in some small way, a communications blog, spare a thought for the communications people within the airlines with responsibility for crisis management – in fact those crisis communicators working for all the interested parties – aviation authorities, airports, government, weather agencies etc etc.

One ‘plane. That’s all it’ll take and this will be the biggest communications bunfight that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Oh – and if you’re due to fly somewhere in the next week or so – are you sure? I can’t say I am.

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Filed under Communications Strategy, Crisis Management, External Communications, Public Relations

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