Daily Archives: December 5, 2015

Infrastructure Damnation 12: Airlines

You knew it was coming. That’s why we saved the best infrastructure damnation for last. (And today’s post is the first of the last baker’s dozen of damnations that we have left to cover.) Postal Services failure is annoying, but there are private carriers. Road closures are more annoying, because even though there’s always another route, the other route is usually longer. Port closures are extremely frustrating, because if you don’t get notice in time to reroute the ship, or its already in port, you’re waiting until it reopens, which can be months if the closure is the result of a strike. But if the airline(s) aren’t flying, what do you do?

Ocean isn’t always an option

If the shipment is from an inland locale that is thousands of miles from the ocean, has no roads part (or all of the year), or is time critical (because the goods are perishable or needed now to prevent a production line shutdown that will cost millions a day), you can’t wait for slow ocean freight. You need air, and if air suddenly becomes unavailable …

Airlines are subject to a host of threats

  • Natural/Environmental
    Planes can’t fly in hurricanes or tornados, can’t fly if the air is filled with volcanic ash, and unless properly equipped, can’t land on water or ice (which means a sudden tsunami or ice storm can make a locale off limits). And, as we saw with the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, Air travel was shutdown for much of Europe for 10 days with minor disruptions occurring in different locales for another month.
  • Geopolitical
    Embargoes, dispute, and wars will close down a zone or prevent planes from one zone from entering another and terrorist threats can result in the grounding of entire fleets.
  • Labour
    Pilot, crew, or terminal worker strikes can down airlines for days, weeks, and even months.

While it may be statistically the safest mode of travel, as the number of people dying from airplane accidents is considerably less than those that die from car accidents, of all of the major modes of transport, it is the most easily interrupted.

AirFreight can skyrocket over night.

It’s not only ocean freight that can increase 20% or 30% (or more) year over year when demand is high, capacity is low, and fuel costs are going through the proverbial roof. If fuel prices spike, capacity drops (especially as a result of a strike at a major carrier), or certain routes become unavailable, prices can increase very quickly, and it won’t matter whether or not you have a contract. (As a Force Majeure or other out clause will quickly be enacted.)

You can’t soar without a plane, when it crashes, so does your Procurement operation.