The Ripple Effect of Heathrow and Others

Bri, Marketing

Thanks, Mother Nature.  Happy Holidays to you, too.

Pardon us for the moment of sarcasm, but the current insanity that’s happening at Heathrow — at last check, the airport has announced that fully less than 1/3 of its flights (both inbound and outbound) will be operating until after Christmas — is just one more major upheaval in a string of weather-related travel nightmares.  The 2010 Holiday Travel Season is upon us, and since Thanksgiving, the traveling public has been peppered with gloomy announcements of delays and cancellations, all courtesy of what meteorologists the world over are euphemistically calling “events.”  Yes, Mr. Weatherman, it’s pretty eventful out there.

From Paris to the American Midwest, from Heathrow to LAX, unheard-of snowfall and rainfall are grounding flights and making travelers miserable.  Of course, the traveling public is bound to be just a tad grumpier about all these delays when the prize of getting home for the holidays is at stake.  But why, you ask, should those who are NOT traveling, or those who are traveling to and from destinations unscathed by the weather, care about what’s going on in snowbound or flooded regions?

Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect?  The theory goes something like this: If a butterfly deep in the rainforests of the Amazon flaps its wings, it can set off a chain reaction of events that will change the course of history throughout the world.  Now think about the delicate balance that exists in planning and executing traffic in global airspace.  If one flight, just one, is grounded at Heathrow, it can impact flights worldwide — missed connections, rebooked passengers, as far away as Tokyo or D.C.  Now multiply that effect by the thousands of flights that will be thwarted by the icing situation in London, plus those that are grounded by the flooding in California, plus any others that crop up due to the blizzard conditions bearing down on the Midwest again…and it’s enough to make even the hardiest and most seasoned of travelers reach for the eggnog.

And even if you’re not traveling, we’re willing to bet — based on the overall reports of booming success on Cyber Monday and general online buying performance this year — that some of your gifts are.  Oh, sure, there are those among us who are smugly sitting by crackling fires, feet up, secure in the knowledge that everything has been bought, shipped, received, and wrapped already.  (Nobody here, that’s for sure.  But somebody else.  Somewhere.)  But if you’re not one of those people, the status of your gifts may be, literally, up in the air.  Apologies for the pun, but it had to be said.

There’s nothing to be done at this point, other than to just wait and hope that Mother Nature calms down quickly and allows most flights to get through.  And to hope that the airlines are able to handle the massive rebooking demands, to get as many of the stranded travelers to their desired destinations in a relatively timely fashion.  For our part, we wish all travelers safety and patience, and we hope that this melee of unavoidable snafus serves as a bit of a cautionary tale for our readers.  Also, we’re hoping that Santa isn’t flying out of Heathrow, and if he is…he’d better have a good travel insurance policy.

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