Volcanic Ash

Friday, 4 June 2010 | 15:31


By Rashad Sharif

The cancellation of flights due to volcanic ash during the last two weeks of April had a huge influence on UK travel queries. In particular, flight queries grew by 47% Week on Week (WoW), as consumers used Google to find out the status of their flights. Car hire queries grew by 9% WoW as travellers sought alternative transport methods.

To take a closer look at how travellers responded to the ash cloud, we analysed destination specific queries during the period affected by the ash and compared these with the overall growth of the same queries in the year to date. The chart below shows our findings:

The chart splits the destination types into three groups:

1. Short Haul (City): e.g. Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam etc.

2. Short Haul (Beach): e.g. Spain, Turkey, Portugal etc.

3. Long Haul: e.g. Dubai, New York, Australia etc.

The red columns represent the YoY query growth of each group for the year to date (i.e. volume of queries Jan 10 – Apr 10 vs. volume of queries Jan 09- Apr 09).

The blue columns represent the query growth of the same group of queries, but specifically looking at the last 2 weeks of April which we saw the effects of the ash cloud versus the same two weeks time period last year.

There was clearly a disproportional increase in growth of queries for European cities (74% for the two weeks vs. 25% as an average for the year). This is likely to represent large numbers of tourists stranded in the UK trying to get home.

Long haul queries saw the largest decrease in relative query growth (18% in the two weeks vs. 30% average for the year). Long haul destinations were likely to be less attractive to consumers at this time as the prospect of further disruption to European airspace might make it impossible for them to get back to the UK.

Short haul beach destinations saw smaller decline in relative growth, as consumers have the option of alternative transport methods such as ferry or the channel tunnel, should further disruption to UK airspace occur.