Daily Archives: April 17, 2010

Europe is closed…

This must be unprecedented, European airspace is completely shut down, nothing in, nothing out – scientists are saying that we could be looking at periodic shutdowns like this for months to come if the Icelandic volcano continues to erupt, worse if it sets off it’s neighbours.

Of course it does highlight how reliant most people are on jet travel, personally I always try to take the train or much more often the ferry if i’m heading into the continent, even when time is tight – and while this is clearly affecting the economy and generating some hysteric, and some genuinely sad headlines; maybe it’s time to reflect that jet travel should be viewed by all but the most who need is as a privilege, not an inherit necessity of every day life – we do after all have better ways to get to our near neighbours.

Friends of mine swear by flying, and they’ll do it to get everywhere, even if it’s ludicrously close – Paris, Köln, Brussels and Amsterdam – it’s only 40 minutes on the jet. Yes, it might be, but it’s an hour to get to the airport, and hour to check in if you’re lucky, 20 minutes on pushback and taxiing, before you’re in the air for 40 minutes (if you’re lucky – assuming you don’t stack at the other end), then you’ve got 30 minutes of checking out, and potentially another hour depending on your carrier from your airport (which with the cheap airlines can be miles from where you actually said you were flying to) to your destination.

I take a different view, I can be in Dover from my front door in under an hour, the wait for a ferry is rarely more than 20 minutes once you’re into the port, and the SeaCat is 40 minutes, or the conventional ferry a relaxing hour and a bit, with half decent food, shops and a view of your destination. Once you’re onto Europe’s E routes you’re away –  Paris in 2 and a bit hours, Brussels in 2 hours flat, and the pretty much anywhere in Germany within 4 hours. All the time on the move, seeing the countryside, all the time in control if a route’s blocked, go around…

It’s even quicker by train, although I will admit that Eurostar’s fees are stupid, but if you can get a Eurorail or Deutschbahn fare you’re laughing – cheap and significantly quicker than by air.

The rationale that air is quicker is stupid – it’s clearly not quicker by any significant amount, and with air travel at every single point of change you’re subject to being stuck standing still until you’re actually on the plane, at the mercy of cancelled flights, bad weather, volcanos, industrial action, and everything else that’s crippled the airline industry pretty much constantly on and off since it became everyone’s ‘right’ to fly.

I’m not anti-airline, I’m not a green-left winger in a hair shirt, I just wish people would think rationally before always making the choice to fly when it’s often quicker and certainly more fun to travel my car and rail.

Vulcanologists are warning that we’re potentially looking at months of intermittent disruption should this Volcano continue erupting: I genuinely don’t think we’ll see a blitz spirit of just getting on with it, I sadly think that we’re instead going to see more hysterical travellers bemoaning health and safety, poor airport and airline communications and ‘impossible’ journeys while sitting on their arse in an airport lounge staring blankly through a TV camera into the flickering departure boards filled with ‘cancelled’ warnings.