Self regulation better choice than government control after volcano eruption

Too much government control: the choice to ground European flights after the volcano eruption should have been left left up to the airlines.

Michael Probst/AP
Government controls airspace: German air traffic went back to normal on April 22 after the volcano eruption grounded planes across Europe. If airlines had been allowed to self-regulate, the result would likely have been less harmful economically, and just as safe.

The estimated cost to the airline industry of Europe’s recent airspace closure is estimated at $1.7billion. The airlines blame governments and say they should compensate the industry. They insist the authorities were over cautious during the ash deposit, with BA Chief executive Willie Walsh arguing they could have continued to fly “safely” and that there was no need for the grounding that took place.

My personal belief is that if airlines want to continue flying during ash clouds or other phenomena that may occur, then let them. Like any other business, airlines will not want to harm its customers. Indeed, for the sake of their reputation they will desperately want to avoid any harm coming to their customers or crews, so it is entirely reasonable to expect that if the danger is significant, the airlines themselves will choose to ground their planes.

These calls need not be left to the government’s magic wand: airlines and, crucially, well-informed customers can take responsibility for themselves. Admittedly this is the first time such an incident has arisen, and – in their defense – governments were only thinking of our safety. But regardless, this may well be looked back upon as another unnecessary and uneconomic panic, driven by the over-zealous, bureaucratic application of the precautionary principle.

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