I guess everybody has heard about the volcano in Iceland and how it has led to the grounding of most air traffic in Western Europe.
I read something today asserting that airlines should have plans in place for this kind of thing. What rubbish!
Incidents like this cannot be predicted – and as a result they are not going to be in your ‘risk register’. If they are unlikely to be predicted then you cannot be expected to plan for them. Airlines have contingency plans for airports being closed, they involve redirection of flights – and generally are only expected to last for a short period.
Closing all airports in that kind of geographic radius has got to be viewed as a ‘Black Swan’ event.
Sure we had all aircraft grounded in the US after 9/11 – but I don’t expect anybody to have specific plans developed in the event that happens again either.
What you can and should be doing is building an ‘Adaptive Capacity’ to enhance your crisis management capability. To achieve this you may run exercises and simulations with extreme events, but not waste your time documenting specific procedural responses.
From what I can see most airlines and their regulators seem to have a plan – based on risk assessments. Volcanic ash is bad for planes (and safety), so they are grounded.
The only business continuity response (other than grounding planes) is to deal with customer impacts where possible, over crowded terminals, layoff casual staff and perhaps most importantly – positioning for the day they are cleared to fly.
Furthermore, this is a sectoral continuity threat – does anybody really think that all the impacted European airlines will be allowed to go broke as a result? Trains and Ferries will do great business for as long as this takes to clear, then passengers will return to air travel.
Risk Management will help us identify the things we need to have plans to respond to – however it is unlikely to encourage us to plan for the unthinkable.
Resilience – embracing uncertainty, adapting – will help us to think about the unplannable.
Are you impacted by this event?
Are you trying to plan for these unthinkable events?