Island chaos

Aviation is an international industry. Britain has been “No longer an Island”[1] for over 120 years. As the Wright Brothers demonstrated practical powered flight, so the importance of sea travel began a decline. Nothing in history has shaped the British more than our island status. Living on an island has moulded attitudes, character, and politics.

The illusion of absolute national autonomy and sovereignty is shattered by the interconnection and interdependencies established by flight. Aviation’s growth encouraged a lowering of impediments between nations and geographic regions. In some respects, this has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s more cooperative working across the globe than there has ever been. On the other hand, conflict crosses natural barriers with much greater ease.

Affordable rapid air travel and growing freedom of movement have been a great boom in my lifetime – the jet age. At the same time, it’s not new that nationalist politicians continue to fear the erosion of difference between the British and the nations of continental Europe, brought about by commercial aviation. Ironically, it’s now the newer digital industries that pose the greatest threat to the illusion of complete independence.

In this context the failure to tackle the critical understaffing at British airports is deep rooted. Lots of finger pointing and experts blaming each other with a catalogue of reasons misses the damage that’s being done by nationalist “conservative” politicians.

Staffing shortages, poor planning and the volume of people looking to travel have led to huge queues and many flight cancellations across UK airports.

Yes, today’s travellers have learnt to take a great deal for granted. They are no longer impressed with the ability to check their emails and watch a movie at 30,000 feet above the sea. So, when the basics go wrong, and flights are seemingly arbitrarily cancelled, queues are long and delays are frequent, the backlash is real.

A UK Minister’s[2] reluctance to restore some freedom of movement to European aviation workers to alleviate the current chaos is an example of blindness to reality. Looking at the historic context, I guess, we should not be surprised that this dogmatic UK Government is so blinkered. Any acknowledgement that the imposition of Brexit is a big factor in airport chaos is far more than their arrogant pride can take. Sadly, expect more problems.


[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4254465-no-longer-an-island

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/government-transport-secretary-bbc-gatwick-covid-b2092887.html

One thought on “Island chaos

  1. David Learmount June 21, 2022 / 3:23 pm

    A good summary of why the British island mentality is such a dangerous illusion, and why its recent expression – the vote for brexit – is based on a global state of affairs that ended in 1945.

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