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21 April 2010
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, said "I do not believe a blanket ban was necessary. We always keep spare duvets in the overhead lockers in case of ash clouds in the North Atlantic." He stressed that his airline is well-equipped to deal with occasional plane crashes, and that legal precedents are in place by which BA's liability would be capped at £200 per crash victim.
However, Lord Adonis of Narcissus, the British Transport Secretary, defended his decision. "We based our decision on the best of science, direct from the University of East Anglia. Besides, 'safety first,' right?" Lord Narcissus previously held a key post in the notorious build-up to 1 January 2000, when computers were expected to all seize up, and bankers would thus refuse to disburse customer deposits.
Airlines confronted Lord Narcissus on Tuesday with the fact that air travel had resumed throughout the continent but was still mostly banned in Britain. There were only 200 flights on Tuesday, and these were in Scotland and the North East, where notorious air crashes are commonplace and life has less value. "The Labour party have taken on 3,000 employees to enforce the ban," continued Narcissus. "These are good people and they deserve work to do. Now if you excuse me, I need to look in the mirror to admire my reflection."
Lord Narcissus held his ground despite protests that the ban would drive airlines into bankruptcy. But Tuesday a new threat emerged: That the U.K. would be out of step with its neighbors, based on their resumption of flights. Lord Narcissus clarified, "The Civil Aviation Authority has been working with the research community to better understand different concentrations of ash. As a result, we have now established a wider area in which it is safe to fly, consistent with the framework agreed by the EU transport ministers.” Thus, the key component of air safety was ministerial unanimity. In addition, airlines have been sending up test flights, empty of fare-paying customers, and none have crashed, which is conclusive proof.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown seems unscathed by the travel disruption; he cleared 300 stranded passengers to board a Royal Navy vessel and even gave them mops and spiffy paper hats. And no British newspaper was moved to compose a headline announcing that the entire European continent was "isolated."
- Gordon Rayner, David Millward and James Kirkup "UK airports reopen as BA claims shutdown 'unnecessary'". London Telegraph, April 20, 2010