European Airlines Enter Third Stage of Grief In Trying to Cope with Volcano

Poor European airline execs. They’ve suffered a great (revenue) loss and now they’re trying to cope with the pain. It looks like they’ve made it to the third stage European Airline Depressionout of five when it comes to coping with grief, but that means the toughest one (depression) lies ahead. Even though flights are finally getting back in the air, the loss will still weigh heavily for some time to come.

If you guys need help, reach out to your US-based counterparts. Those who were around during September 11 know the pain all too well. Let’s review how this works.

  1. Denial
    When airlines first realized that the volcanic ash had a bullseye on Europe, they took it in stride. A few flights were canceled and it looked like any other large weather event. Sure it would have an impact, but it wouldn’t be that bad, right? They just figured it would go away and everything would be fine. If only that were true.
  2. Anger
    As the shut down dragged on and on, airlines started to get angry at anyone they could. The wrath wasn’t directed at the volcano but rather at European aviation authorities. For example, a Lufthansa spokesperson said:

    The flight ban, made on the basis just of computer calculations, is resulting in billion-high losses for the economy.
    In future we demand that reliable measurements are presented before a flying ban is imposed.

    For many, this will be a welcome lambasting, but to me it seems somewhat irrational. We have plenty of examples of ash really messing things up in the past so why take chances? Even now, there are military aircraft with serious ash damage from flying around in this stuff. Sounds like some execs are just lashing out. It’s all part of the process.

  3. Bargaining
    Now that the ash seems to be lifting and the airlines are seeing the financial damage rolling in, it’s time for the bargaining phase. British Airways is leading the charge with CEO Willie Walsh saying this:

    To assist us with this situation, European airlines have asked the EU and national governments for financial compensation for the closure of airspace.

    He then added, “If you can kick a little in for that strike a couple weeks ago, that’d be pretty sweet.”

  4. Depression
    We haven’t moved beyond the bargaining phase yet, but I think we can assume this is what’s coming next. After the adrenalin stops pumping and the final loss numbers roll in, a general depression will hit the European industry execs. They’ll be hurting badly and many will think about just grounding the fleet and being done with it all. Stay strong; you’ll get through it.
  5. Acceptance
    Finally, the execs will simply realize that this is the way it is. There’s no stopping Eyjafjallaj√∂kull and its ash-blowing, revenue-destroying power. The financial damage is done and the airlines will simply need to learn that there is no changing what happened. They need to realize that it’s not their fault that this happened. It’s just something that they need to accept and move on.

If you see an airline exec wandering aimlessly around the halls of the airport, give ’em a pat on the back and remind that that it’s not their fault. They’ll get through this, with your help. (Oh, and with the help of large bonuses.)

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