Thursday, April 22, 2010

Of 'ashing' and grounding flights: a self imposed sanction

" Flights resume across Europe " was today's headline news. One week of European space closure causes chaos for travelers and business. "International air transport group Iata says the disruption has cost the industry $1.7bn (£1.1bn) and called for European governments to help carriers" continues the article.

But the chaos has affected everyone in different ways, see sample of comments here, and also the 'ash stories' run by the BBC ... people ran out of prescription medication, people were literally under house arrest in Russia because their flight was diverted there and they have no visa. Business trips were canceled. Travelers were stranded at the wrong end of the world and people had to find ingenious ways to make it home: bus, ferry, train, bicycle , taxi, car...Britain even deployed its Royal Navy to repatriate travelers.

That was just one week of no fly zone over a large swath of European airspace, and the toll was enormous materially, morally and physically. How does it compare for people who are forced to endure something similar for years ?

From 1992 till 1999 there was an air embargo on Libya, but even before that there were the US economic sanctions which also affected Libyan airlines - but I won't take that into consideration in my comparison :)

I remember the journeys we had to make just to reach nearby Egypt! By ferry to Malta - 12 hrs in good weather then overnight in a hotel in Malta then if you are lucky you get the next day flight to your destination. But that will not be a direct flight to your destination because not all airlines go everywhere from Malta and you need visas for Europe even in transit. So the next destination for example Cairo and you have to stopover for a night there as well to catch the flight to your final destination. The same thing is for the return journey. You do the maths. This is provided your ferry to Malta is not delayed by bad weather or places are not overbooked. Can you imagine how much all this costs per family?

You had two other options by car to Tunisia ( Djerba or Tunis depending on where you are catching your flight) or by car or bus to the Egyptian border and from there to Cairo. It's ok if you are doing it for fun but who wants to brave the long lines at the border control ? screaming kids, hot tempered people and officials, the journey to the Egyptian border 2- 3 days depending how fast you drive. To Tunis 12 hours non stop. Again if its for your holiday it may be bearable but such a waste of time but if you have a sick person and not everyone lives in Tripoli or Benghazi it's not obvious. Check this . So many car accidents and some many ill Libyans died on the road. I think that was the period when we in Libya started to drive like crazy, because we were always trying to reach somewhere fast enough. Plus the road to Egypt or Tunis was desolate.

If you were abroad you could not guarantee returning on time for your grandfather's funeral, your daughter's birth or your sister's wedding. If you were in Libya you could not guarantee getting your son on time to Jordan for his chemotherapy. The only ones who did not suffer much were foreign oil companies, because they had their drivers take their crew and staff to Djerba to catch flights to Europe. They had no problem at the Tunisian border as foreigners are waived in faster than Arabs. Also this was the time when 1 US$ was equivalent to 3 Libyan Dinars, which meant despite the astronomically rising inflation everything in Libya was cheap for foreigners, so car travel to Tunis in luxurious and safe vehicles was very affordable.

If in one week IATA alone lost 1.7 billion US$, how much was the collective loss for Libya and Libyans in 8 years ? The airline was in shambles and I think will take a long time to recover if at all.

I know how much the gain was for neighbouring countries who benefited from the sanctions on Libya and especially the air embargo. They had to create flights and routes of major airlines and become a hub to cater to Libya travel ( to and fro) and Libya inbound/outbound business in general. I know because I have seen over the years and a short period of time what Malta was and what it became, what Tunis was and what it became and what Egypt was and what it became. I don't say this with resentment though; good for them for seizing an opportunity, they'd be dumb not to use it.

I have seen the same thing happen in Jordan due to the embargo on Iraq.In a decade in the 90s Jordan had radically changed on the outside - this was accelerated more than it normally would have been.

I hope that the world has felt a little bit of what an air embargo means or even what sanctions are and is ready to sympathize with plight of others and not blindly endorse unjust resolutions. After all grounding flights was not a sanction in Europe but it probably felt like one for them as their plans were no longer 100% proof. It probably felt horrible for all those locked up in hotels in foreign countries or in airports without money.... That is a fraction of what Palestinians feel, Libyans and Iraqis experienced, what Iranians could experience and others such as in Cuba feel.


Nilo Dream said...

You know the comparison is unfair highlander , the reason for non fly zone in the case of Europe is the volcano , the reason for the non fly zone in the case you want to bring into memory is a mad guy , although the volcano is a natural catastrophe, it ended in less than a week , flying was resumed again , we defeated the volcano , but we could not defeat your mad guy , he is still there suffocating us and wasting the life of a nation and the future of a complete generation , Highlander I told you we are …… but you did not believe me , now you want to cry over the non fly zone for years , although you know very well what was the reason for that , but we as Arabs like to cry over the split milk , it seems the only thing left to us , the mad guys took everything and left us only this

Maya M said...

You say that at checkpoints of Arab countries, Westerners are treated better than Arabs. Anglo-Libyan had reported the same phenomenon, calling it "Blue Eyes Syndrome".
Have you any explanation for it?

programmer craig said...

Greetings, Highlander :)

I hope that the world has felt a little bit of what an air embargo means...

I don't think I even know anyone who was effected by this, but most Americans experienced that shortly after 9/11 when flights even within the US were grounded for a period of time, and even when they resumed security measures were so insane you practically had to arrive at the airport the day before your flight.

...or even what sanctions are and is ready to sympathize with plight of others and not blindly endorse unjust resolutions.

I'm not in favor of UN sanctions. I do support unilateral sanctions between countries that are hostile to eachother, though.

I'm interested in your apparent opposition to unjust UN resolutions, though. Would you be opposed to any sanctioning of Israel?

After all grounding flights was
not a sanction in Europe but it probably felt like one for them as their plans were no longer 100% proof.

If US flights were grounded, it wouldn't affect my life at all, except for visiting friends and relatives who aren't nearby. Even if that was permanent. There's nowhere I need to go that I can't drive to easily enough. Out of all the people I know (excluding you!), I think only my mother would be seriously affected. She really does love to travel!

This is off topic, but I'm curious why so many Libyans travel to other countries for medical care? That seems like it would be a problem even without air travel restrictions! If I was gravely ill, the very last thing I would want to have to do is make a tiring and stressful trip to another country every time I needed to see the doctor!

By the way, I hope you won't hold my lack of compassion for the Euroweenies against me! I'm working very hard to do better with that, but it's a struggle!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, too bad the trans-Libyan Railway Project (endorsed by the Man himself) is slightly behind schedule. But at least I found this absolutely adorable picture.

jony maginex said...

Hi I am João I am from Portugal.
I love your blog and your fotos, keep going.
If you want you can visit my blog too.

Have a nice day:)

[Lebeeya] said...

Volcano ash is over. Time to move on. Update pls ;)

Omar Gheriani said...

It seems that this Volcano is going on and off, but for how long? Weeks, months or a couple of years? A hotter version of our ghibli probably. Greetings.

Brave Heart said...

it is the 6th of June u need to update

Lebeeya said...

Salam Highlander, I hope all is well. Update so we know you are OK. I know your probably cruising the streets with your new car but don't forget about us little people :)

Highlander said...

Thanks for keeping up the comments everyone, absolutely ashamed of my negligence with the updates but when you read the new post you will know why :)

khyrat said...

Good and informative efforts are seen. Another link, given under, is showing latesrt positiion.Please read it.