Daily Archives: May 6, 2016

Infrastructure Sustentation 12: Airlines

Airlines are sometimes the most unpredictable of the infrastructure damnations. Postal services failures can be overcome with private carriers. Road closures can be overcome with longer detours. Port closures can be overcome by routing to alternate ports and trucking for longer distances. But when airlines fail, especially when all airlines are unable to serve a region, what do you do. Send a zeppelin? (And when was the last time those great balls of fire just waiting for a spark were used?)

The reality is that airlines are subject to a host of threats that can shut them down at a moment’s notice including, but not limited to:

  • Environmental Hazards

    planes can’t fly through hurricanes, tornados, or tsunamis; they can’t fly when the air is filled with volcanic ash (that will choke up an engine); they can’t land on water or thin ice); etc.

  • Geopolitical

    embargoes, disputes, and wars can close down a zone for an extended period of time

  • Labour

    worker strikes can take an airline down for an extended length of time

And even if this doesn’t happen, there’s still the risk that:

  • AirFreight can skyrocket over night.

    It’s not only ocean freight that can increase 20% or 30% almost overnight, air freight can too (especially when fuel costs skyrocket)

So what can you do?

Minimize Dependence on Air Freight

Yes it’s nice to get things overnight, but with proper supply chain planning, do you really need things overnight? For the bulk of enterprise and consumer goods, the answer is no. And with ocean freight able to get things across the ocean in as little as 23 days, that should be fast enough for most needs.

Have a Backup Plan

Have a backup airline, a backup departure point, a backup arrival point, plans to rail/truck the cargo to backup departure and destination points, and worst-case ocean or land backup plans for at least part of the journey if airlines shut down in a region due to another volcanic eruption.

Get Your Own Cargo Jet (Fleet)

As long as planes can fly, you can have more control. This isn’t a solution for anyone who doesn’t do a lot of air freight, but if you do, just like building your own power plant may soon be a necessity, so may be controlling your own air fleet.