Entrepreneurs and exporters suffer as Icelandic volcano forces more airlines to delay flights

Travelling executives and entrepreneurs either stuck in Europe or wanting to leave Australia face more uncertainty as travel agencies have been informed of more cancellations and delays over the next 24 hours.

Businesses are also suffering by having their trade routes blocked, with many exporters and importers restricted from delivering goods due to the massive cloud of volcanic ash rolling across the continent from Iceland.

British Airways has announced that no flights will be leaving London until late Monday night, with more announcements to come during the day as aviation experts judge whether planes can fly through the ash.

Tina Killeen, general manager of Sydney-based Spencer Travel, says the company has had many business executives and entrepreneurs affected by the travel ban and is attempting to either rebook flights or make alternative arrangements.

“We’ve had people affected, but one of the better things is that we’re now getting updates from the airlines constantly, giving us more information so people aren’t as likely to become frustrated if we tell them what’s happening. We’ve received three updates from British Airways this morning already.”

“But it looks as though it’s another day of just waiting around. We just have no idea of when the ash is going to clear, and it’s not as though we can just put them on a different airline.”

International flight crises are part of working in the travel industry, Killeen says, with the company having faced weather, terrorism and disease-related disasters over the past decade. However, she says the impact of this latest catastrophe has been weakened as the current season is a quiet one for travellers.

“I think a bigger problem recently was the British Airways strikes, because we just had a lot more people travelling at that time. But right now it’s not the right time for leisure clients to be travelling to Europe.”

“There have actually been quite a few trips to the US lately, as the market has shifted. I don’t know whether that’s due to the dollar, but we’ve been having quite a lot more people going to the US than to Europe.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Australian Institute of Export, says while exporters may not be going to Europe specifically, the ripple impact on freight is affecting many businesses.

“It is a very low percentage of exporters travelling to Europe, but one must be conscious of the fact that while there are delays in airlines, it’s also impacting freight and it’s going to impact people going overseas to generate business. Air freight as distribution is also being affected.”

“It’s hard to suggest the overall impact because a huge proportion of our exporters are moving into Asia. But for businesses travelling it’s certainly causing problems, not just because of the travel issues but because accommodation in places like Asia is full as the delays continue.”

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