Business Travel: Planes, Trains and Eyjafjallajokull

Eyjafjallajokull wreaks havoc

If you are from Europe and stranded in Florida anywhere near Tampa or Orlando by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, you can spend a day at one of our local amusement parks free, courtesy of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.  Bring your return airline ticket dated up to the 21st of April and you can get in these parks for free.   This may be the only good news coming out of the unusual crisis that has stranded tourists all across the globe, and disrupted the live of  Europeans.

The impact of the huge cloud of volcanic ash is far-reaching, and has impact far beyond the all the stranded tourists.

President Obama was unable to attend to the state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski of Poland.   Many students are unable to return home, causing the disruption of many school and university schedules.  Many items will soon disappear from the shelves of grocery stores, especially fresh produce.  Companies specializing in the transportation of such products by air are unable to move their products.

To put this event in context, reports suggest that as many as one million UK residents are stranded around the globe, and daily losses from the ash cloud have been estimated at 200 million GBP per day, or 307,159,996 USD.

For some people, money is no object.  Legendary “Monty Python” comedian John Cleese hired a cab to drive him from Oslo to Brussels on Friday.  The trip by car from Oslo to Brussels takes about 15 hours and passes through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Cleese paid $5,100 for a Mercedes taxi from the Norwegian capital to Brussels on Friday, said Kjetil Kristoffersen, the managing director of Publicom, his agent in Norway. Cleese had visited Oslo to participate in the talk show “Skavlan.” The cab driver who agreed to the 932-mile tour is a childhood friend of Kristoffersen, the agent said.

“When the plane did not go, we tried to book tickets on the train but there was no possibility in the whole world,” Kristoffersen said.

HR Implications

The eruption also hits close to home for me.   I am leaving very early tomorrow morning to fly to Madison, Wisconsin to attend the first TRU USA unconference. I just learned via twitter that Bill Boorman and the European contingent planning to attend will not be able to make it.  This is unfortunate, although not unexpected.   I guess the good news is they will not be indefinitely stranded over here.

I have yet to see any reports of how companies are assisting their employees who were stranded while on company business.    Are people getting extended vacations in Europe courtesy of their employers?   Are companies telling them they are on their own dime, or invoking vacation?  I’d love to hear!

This raises the interesting and daunting problem of how employers might deal with this event if it were extended., say for three or four months or longer.

Would companies rent accommodations for stranded workers, maybe bunk them in with locals?

What would governments do about work visas?

Would it be okay for a stranded CEO to incur an extraordinary expense to get back to the office?   Would some poor sales schlub be offered the same level of accomodation?

Does your company have a contingency plan in place for this type of event?  What does it look like? Inquiring minds want to know!

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