As the plumes of ash from Iceland’s suddenly active Eyjafjallajokull continued to billow into the North Atlantic skies throughout the latter part of April, grounding every plane over Europe for a little over a week, the news media were quick to assert that this was the worst mass grounding of flights since 9/11. According to IATA, upwards of 1.2 million passengers were affected per day between April 17th and the 19th, with lost revenues accruing at a rate of $400 million per day. At one point, 29 per cent of global aviation was negatively affected, contributing to total losses of $1.7 billion for the airline industry. Read how Aramex dealt with this logistics challenge.
While the media trained their lenses on the world’s departure lounges, where passengers gathered in the vain hope of beginning their journeys home, the impact was being calculated elsewhere in the aviation world. International logistics companies in particular were faced with customers’ shipments of retail goods, raw materials, manufacturing components, essential documents and general mail sitting idle in warehouses. According to estimates from freight forwarders Kuehne & Nage, some 15,000 tons of air freight had collected at Shanghai and Hong Kong airports each – and air carriers were refusing new bookings. Even non-European bound flights were affected as large swathes of the North Atlantic were off-limits. As a result, many operators opted to fly to hubs such as Dubai, Izmir in Turkey and Morocco and then use more sea routes to maintain at least a partial delivery service.
Aramex, with its large presence in the European market, was also forced to take swift measures to lessen the impact on its customers. “As soon as the extent of the volcanic ash was known, we tried to find a way around the large no-fly zones and non-operational airports,” says Safwan Tannir, Aramex’s Chief Freight Officer. “We instantly rolled out a five-point emergency plan to deal with the changing and entirely unpredictable circumstances, and this enabled us to minimize the disruption to our customers and service delivery.”
The plan revolved around the creation of a global situation team who, via twice-daily conference calls to ascertain the affects of the unfolding situation, collected and analyzed data on all pending shipments to and from Europe. It was then decided that Spain station would be the principal gateway into Europe. “We had to constantly monitor the ash cloud as any change in its location could mean a chain reaction to our recovery efforts,” says Safwan....