A Finland Swede in Bavaria

Sunday, 18 April 2010

There IS a way to fly, Lufthansa!

Redwood Shores 18.4.2010

Dear Lufthansa,

My Day Three of being stranded on the wrong continent is starting. I want home!

As I wrote to you earlier, it's not your volcano. And now, I have to add, it's not your politicians nor your scientists either. So you have my full support in questioning the sensibility of a complete flight ban.

We may witness a Security Theatre ("security  countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security") in a more dramatic implementation than ever before in aviation history.

Hence, I have two requests for you, especially related to long-distance flights:

  1. Convince the scientists that you should be allowed to start flying at all.

  2. Convince the politicians that you should be allowed to choose routing more flexibly.

The prevalent conclusion of the volcanic eruption seems to be "faced with the forces of nature, passengers have to be flexible and expect delays". I can tell you, we do.

The missing conclusion is "faced with the forces of nature, airlines, politicians and regulatory bodies have to be flexible when working off the backlog". I can tell you, that flexibility doesn't seem to be happening.

The equation is complicated enough without the added constraints of processes tuned to business-as-usual. Lufthansa has an unchanged amount of airplanes and airplane seats. The backlog of stranded passengers is piling up. How does anyone expect the situation to normalise if available airplanes are not being used to fly stranded passengers closer to home, relieving the constraints of the existing flight slots and landing permits handed out on mere commercial grounds tuned for "peace time"?

Moreover, last time the thing erupted 1821-23, it took one and a half years. This eruption may not be a matter of days, either. I may be flexible, but I'm not happy to wait on a geological time scale.

So let me tell you how far my flexibility extends. Usually, flying SFO to MUC with LH459 meets my needs perfectly as I live in MUC and I couldn't imagine any better way of flying than in your Business Class (sure, "flattery can take you anywhere", but I honestly cannot think of much that would make the SFO-MUC flight more endurable and more enjoyable than it already is in LH459, starting 21:00 and arriving 17:15+1). But now, I just want home. I can downgrade. I can travel at a different time of day. I can travel a different route. In fact, I'm happy to just get home to my own dear ash-infested continent, in time to attend my daughter's confirmation next Sunday in Munich. I am willing to take the train from anywhere in continental Europe to Munich. My only constraint is that I don't have a valid Russian visa, so I cannot travel through Russia. Lisbon is fine, so is Madrid, Rome, Barcelona, Toulouse, anything North, East, South, West (but not really Reykjavik). And the fellow stranded passengers I've talked to share my, how shall I put it, certain degree of flexibility.

So start flying! You've got airplanes, you've got passengers, and there are ash-free parts of the skies. Use them! Don't expect to fix issues caused by extreme situations using normal means.

Kaj Arnö

Lufthansa Senator member
EU citizen (of Finland)
German resident (in Munich)


  1. You seem to be very aware of the amount of time it took last time when this volcano erupted.

    Funny that you seem to disregard the fact that tens of thousands of people perished because of the volcanic ashes that time. and are very egocentric in your persuasion reasons.

    Just saying...

  2. Kib, I'm happy I've got a hotel, a shower, some books to read, a laptop, Internet etc. as I wrote in the blog entry linked to "I want home". And although this Eyjafjalla eruption to my knowledge hasn't caused any casualties so far, there are people who are very much less fortunate than I am: Stuck in immigration without a visa, missing a wedding, a funeral, or "mere" important business meetings. So things could be way worse for me than what they are.

    But none of the above should stop politicians and airlines from behaving rationally during the 2010(-2013?) eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.

  3. Kaj! I absolutely hear you. I Would say the same to Air Canada, Get a bus, get that bus to drive people to Madrid and fly us out of there. Yes, it's a long way on a bus, but damn it, it's better than 5 days stuck here. Yes it's hard to reroute, but come on, if you can shut down airspaces just like that, let's do some rerouting!


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