Simon Calder: Is your boarding pass now a lottery ticket?

The man who pays his way

Even as the "Cancelled" signs were scrolling on the airport departure screens, the vultures started circling – subject, of course, to the restrictions imposed by the scary airspace maps that showed a big red splodge where Scotland normally appears.

"Irish Ferries ready for second ash boost," trumpeted a press release from the ferry company, promising "Ulysses is poised to welcome any air travellers disrupted by another Icelandic volcano." No matter that the main effect of the ash cloud was to cut off Scotland from England rather than Wales from Ireland, where the good ship plies.

The rival ferry firm, Stena Line, was less gleeful, content to explain that it was bringing in extra call-centre staff "to efficiently help any stranded travellers if Britain should once again become a no-fly zone."

Travelling abroad is not essential for holiday happiness, as Coast & Country Cottages of Devon was keen to remind the media: "Avoid the hassle and stress of flight delays and book a luxury self-catering property."

By Thursday, some of the silver-lining seekers were getting apocalyptic in their pronouncements over the Grimsvotn eruption: "As the Icelandic ash cloud threatens to cover the whole of the UK by Friday," warned a press release for treetop adventure operator Go Ape, "This could spell disaster for many families that have planned half-term holidays abroad."

Seeing your long-planned trip disappear in a puff of Icelandic ash falls somewhere on a spectrum from disappointing to infuriating. It could also prove expensive, for example if you have booked flights and accommodation separately rather than a package holiday. But it is a misfortune, not a disaster.

If anyone has the right to talk about a calamity, it is the bosses of the airlines and holiday companies who still have millions of seats to sell for the summer.

Bookings for the year began strongly in January, but slid, in the manner of molten lava (or ice cream) down a cone, through the late winter and early spring.

Operators were hoping for a May surge, spurred by general glee following the royal wedding. But while the long-suffering British holidaymaker was prepared to accept that the first bout of eruption disruption was one of those "blue-moon" events where the wrong kind of ash, wrong kind of weather and wrong kind of rules were all in alignment, a repeat just 13 months later reminds us how fragile 21st-century travel is compared with the force of nature.

If you would like to study that phenomenon close up, Voyages of Discovery invites you to "Sail to Iceland to see the forces of nature in action" – aboard a cruise to Reykjavik setting sail from Harwich next Saturday.

Iceland is the place to witness geology in motion, as well as the source of the ash that renders airline passengers motionless.

Good luck to all the terrestrial tour operators seeking to capitalise on the airlines' misfortune. And hats off to Siim Kallas of the European Commission, who boasted that "the new EU procedures are working". But if the net effect of Europe's rules is to disconnect Scotland from the world, and turn the average boarding pass into a lottery ticket, the immediate future for much of the travel industry looks as grim as a foggy night on Grimsvotn.

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all