The Economist reports that with the recent events of all air travel being halted for about a week in Europe, some feared the disruption might turn the tentative recovery into a second recession. However, the long term negative economic effects are minimal and there has been some good that came about.
In the short term, businesses and the people in them, have goals to achieve and most importantly they have alternatives to achieve those goals. If they depended on a face-to-face meeting to achieve their sales goal and if air travel was the only way to conduct that meeting, the prudent executive will simply participate via telepresence, video conferencing or telephone call. Taken on a large scale then, people respond to catastrophic events like the volcano affecting an entire industry for a large region such as Northern Europe by adapting. They choose alternatives to avoid the impossibility including changing attitudes, priorities and behaviors. Therefore the global economy is actually quite resilient and sturdier to these systematic problems then most imagine.
A portion of air traffic on an everyday basis is the result of business travel and those foreign business; important documents must be sent via courier, business deals must be made, and crucial meetings must be attended, or so people thought before the eruption. After the unexpected shutdown of air traffic business, these situations have been delayed, but only momentarily. Suddenly email servers, audio conferencing bridges and telepresence suites were fully booked.
As well, the science behind mixing ash and passenger jet engines have also been better defined because of this shutdown of commercial jet traffic. The common safety practice before the eruption in Iceland was that the presence of ash made a large area a ‘no fly zone’. Because of this incident, (imagine experiments where jet engines are fed some gradually higher diet of ash mixed with air) scientists have figured out that as long as the concentration of the massive clouds of ash do fall below a certain acceptable limit commercial jet engines can handle the stress and continue to operate safely. As a result, when another volcano does happen, air traffic might not have to be shut down for so long.
Since this crisis has been over, businesses seemed to move back to the less efficient, but more fun means of conducting business and nearly forgot the lessons that they might have learned. Changing culture, attitudes and business practices in a profound way needs a much more intensive experience.