A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

19 April 2010

Government vs. Industry

This article from the Telegraph demonstrates the fundamental difference in attitudes of government and business about how to do damage control. European governments (inexplicably waiting for days to organize some sort of conference call, as though transportation secretaries have more important things to deal with) have argued that, as Tessa Jowell, the UK's transportation minister (previously under investigation for corruption because her husband was paid off by Berlusconi) put it, "[We have] been working round the clock, in order to try to make sure that, within the context of safety being the most important consideration, services can be restored to normal as soon as possible. I think everybody would understand that the overriding concern is safety of passengers." As a result, there is a virtual ban on flights throughout most of Europe, even in places where the ash cloud has been relatively minor. Governmental responses (as usual) have been to apply a meat cleaver to a problem that could use a scalpel, (or at least a paring knife). In no case has anybody seemed to consider that the airlines themselves have little interest in flying in conditions that are too dangerous. If the safety of passengers is truly the overriding concern, surely the airlines are also interested in this as well.

As Giovanni Bisignani, Director-General of the International Air Transport Association, put it, "this decision has to be based on facts and supported by risk assessment. We need to replace this blanket approach with a practical approach."

The solution for the UK's government is to put consular officers at the airports, a stunning combination of incompetence and paternalism. "Well, we can't really DO anything for you, but here's a bureaucrat." The solution by the airline industry is to figure out where the cloud is the worst, and reroute planes around it, or at least get a few people where they need to be. No one, including the airlines, wants to fly into dangerous areas, and it would be nice to hear from some of the makers of the planes' engines, which are designed for relatively clean air. (Of course, these same planes manage to fly in and out of LAX without too much of a particulate problem. And heaven knows the engine manufacturers want to avoid any liability problems for their product.) Nevertheless, it appears once again that crash-helmet government is exacerbating the problem, rather than solving it.

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