Ash Wednesday

Who would
ever guess a volcano in Iceland
could throw a monkey wrench into the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of
travelers plus cost the airlines hundreds of millions of dollars a day?

But there
they were.  On the radio, TV, Internet –
millions of stranded passengers sleeping at airport gates (some with no money)
as they waited, day after day, for the plume to stop and the ash to clear.  The cost? 
Almost 7 million stranded passengers and $200 million a day for the
airlines.  One passenger said she was
living out of her one carry-on (she had no idea where rest of her baggage was)
for 5 days in a row.  

While
airlines have resumed travel and returned these passengers to their homes, there’s
a chance the volcano might blow again. As an alleged “PR pro” I wonder how so
many airlines and hotels missed an obvious win-win with the stranded, great
unwashed.  I think a British Airways or
Lufthansa should have opened up their first class clubs so stranded passengers
could take a shower…or the Hiltons and Hyatts that are generally adjacent to
large airports should have let folks stay for free.  Why have any vacant rooms (if there were any)
when there are travelers whose only wish was a shower and a bed?  And what a great PR gift for those hotels.  Couldn’t you see the headline?  “Hyatt Opens Doors to Stranded
Travelers.”  You can’t pay for that kind
of ink.

To show how
this latest disaster trickles down, I innocently called American Express the
other day to use miles for a trip to Italy in June.  The nice woman on tape informed me that I
should try again in a few days given the “ash” situation.  It hadn’t even dawned on me that the volcano
in Iceland would affect
little ole me calling AmEx from my ash-free den in Washington, DC.

This whole
ash thing just reinforces the thought that we are just pawns in the wake of
Mother Nature.  Now, after about half a
dozen earthquakes in a row, some experts are predicting the “big one” in California could come
sooner than later.  Given that my
daughter is currently living in Hollywood,
I wasn’t too keen on that news.

So what’s the
takeaway from this latest dis-ashter? 
For me, it’s booking my travel sooner, getting a very large carry-on and
bribing my daughter to look for a TV job in NYC.

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