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April 19, 2010

Iceland Volcano: Winners & Losers

It's a great time to own a hotel. It's an awful time to own a piece of an airline.

The ash cloud still has much of European airspace closed to civilian flights, including the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. Airspace is open again in Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Iceland is sending flights to the U.S., but not to Europe.

Airports in Newfoundland were briefly closed yesterday and this morning, but flights have resumed. There is some expectation that more ash could arrive on the Canadian east coast.

So, who's in trouble? Obviously airlines. Depending on how long this goes on, Europe might lose a large portion of its air capacity as airlines start going under. European airports also may see a decline as international airlines shift hubs to unaffected countries. Also businesses that rely on air cargo to deliver perishable goods, including fruits, vegetables, and flowers are hurting all along the supply chain. There's no way to get the goods to markets, so they're rotting in warehouses.

Anybody come out of this better than when they started? Hotels are enjoying the high demand at the moment. Telecommuting is also booming. Rail travel in Europe is at capacity for the first time ever. Oddly enough, Greece might come out of this in better shape, as trapped travelers head southeast to use the working airport at Athens.

The economic impact will extend further than the ash cloud. At some point, governments are going to reexamine the factors that led to closing the airports. Is there a danger? Is it outweighed by the looming economic catastrophe? At the moment, no one can say how long the volcano is going to erupt.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:20 AM

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