Natural disasters, the natural ground for social media

The latest volcanic eruption in Iceland has had a dramatic effect on many more millions of people than could have been imagined. As one person commented on Twitter this morning, interesting to see the hand of God can still command such control over us mere humans – or something like that.

It is a time like this that social media can really help stranded passengers and relatives waiting on news. Yet the airlines seem to be avoiding the channels there right in front of them. British Airways are Tweeting about the state of play and interestingly Heathrow Airport’s Twitter stream is also a good source of what little information there is right now.

How this plays out when there is no actual solution for people who are supposed to be in the air right now or have flights planned for the next few days is going to be interesting. Airlines, probably led by the aviation authorities, need to start managing customer expectations now. They have no control and have to wait on the National Air Traffic Service to open the skies again. Realistically there are unlikely to be flights into the UK in the next 48 hours and then how do the airlines manage the thousands of calls for people trying to get on flights? As I learnt in a previous life, news that there is no news and that the airline is doing all it can to solve passenger problems is better than no news at all.

The Twitter expert probably has a bit of an advantage, staying in touch with things through a series of feeds, managing both their own and their families’ expectations as to when they will be able to fly. Some suggested feeds are:

  1. The Met Office – tracking the plume of ash and will provide NATS with the information it uses to decide to open UK airspace again
  2. Heathrow Airport – for latest on the status on the ground at the airport
  3. Aberdeen Airport – this airport should reopen before any other UK airports, so worth keeping an eye on its feed

Good luck to those trying to fly today and thoughts go out to the Icelanders feeling the full force of the eruption, no casualties reported, which is good news. As always better safe than sorry.

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