This has caused many unexpected problems for many people, and many companies too. But stop for a moment and think about what we use air travel for...
(1) Tourists. Many people have been delayed in foreign countries as they head back to the UK following their Easter holdays abroad (many of these are teachers, and the concern now is how will schools cope as they begin the summer term with missing teachers and pupils). However, do we really *need* to travel abroad for a holiday? Surely there are enough places in the UK to take a break to, and by staying in the UK it will help with the economy, and that has to be a good idea with the current financial mess the country is in.
(2) Business. Planes carry business class passengers to and from countries to allow them to reach meetings, exhibitions and conferences, etc. Is this necessary though? We're living in the 21st century with technology that can put you virtually anywhere you want via email, skype, and fast rate video-conferencing. Is it really essential to travel across the globe for a meeting when you can sit at home in front of your computer and still be able to put your message across?
(3) Cargo - industry. Cargo transport is responsible for many flights coming into the country (the airport close to me is a major cargo hub, and has flights in and out each and every day late into the late). Why are we bringing in so much cargo though? Because we no longer manufacture what we need in this country. If we were able to do so, then we wouldn't need so any flights bringing these goods to us from distant lands. In addition, it would provide additional employment in the manufacturing industry.
(4) Cargo - food. The amount of food that is imported into the country through air freight is immense. Why do we do this though? Can we not grow food ourselves? Can we not construct greenhouses if needed for exotic items? Or maybe we could return to the old fashioned idea of eating food that is produced locally within the UK when it is in season, and not expecting to be able to get any food and any time of the year as we do now.
Do we *really* need the amount of flights that we currently have? Are all those flights *really* necessary? Could we adapt and cope without them? The fallout from the volcano has made people start to sit up and wonder just how much air travel is essential, and how much we could do without it.
With a few changes, we could reduce those non-essential flights. It would also cut down on the carbon emissions that the government tell us we have to do, and it could even help the economy if we holiday'd in the country, and started to manufacture for ourselves the items that we use in this country.
So has the icelandic eruption and its ash cloud been a hindrance, or has it allowed us to step back for a moment of clarity and think whether we really do need the current frequency of air travel.
One positive that is has had is that the skies above Nottingham are a perfect blue with no vapour trails across them, and it is so quiet too. Heaven only knows what is sounds like in London with no Heathrow air traffic.
Image over Nottingham of a vapour-trail free sky.