This week’s news has been dominated by the impact of the volcanic ash cloud on European air traffic. All of the newspapers have covered the human angle, with dramatic tales of the Dunkirk spirit and epic cross-continent treks. Most papers have also reported on the economic effects of the chaos, so we thought it would be interesting to explore some newspaper websites and see how well their figures tied up …

The Daily Star (whose website tabs include “News, Babes, Celebrity”) reports: “CHAOS caused by volcanic ash could last for months and is set to cost the UK economy more than £2billion. And more than a million Brits stranded abroad may not get a flight back home for another five days.”
Our verdict … Obviously fixated on statistics – the bigger the better! – and why bother trying to justify them?
The Daily Telegraph (“News, Finance, Obituaries”) claims: “The six-day closure of British airspace has cost airlines, passengers and the economy more than £1.5 billion. The £1 billion cost to the aviation industry could be attributed to lost revenue, repatriation, refunds and the cost of supporting stranded passengers. The cost to the wider British economy has been estimated at £500 million.”
Our verdict … Impressive numbers with a subtle hint (but not much more!) of underlying robustness
The Guardian (“News, Culture, Environment”) is more canny: “Economists said it was hard to quantify the economic cost of the crisis, although the damage to the economy would increase the longer it dragged on. Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said: ‘Obviously, the longer that the problem does persist, the more serious will be the economic repercussions’”
Our verdict … A masterpiece of trying to sound knowledgeable while actually saying nothing– Sir Humphry Appleby would be proud!
The Inverness Courier (“News, Dating, Sheep”) looks closer to home: “However, the impact on the local economy could be even greater, with Inverness alone estimated to have lost £1.8 million already”
Our verdict … A nice attempt at providing the local angle – reminiscent of the (sadly apocryphal) headline in the Aberdeen Press and Journal when the Titanic sank: “North-east man dies at sea.”
Surprisingly, the most under-played report comes from the paper with the greatest credibility in this area – the Financial Times: “The long-term impact on the European economy is likely to be minimal … no more than 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product.” Which sounds trivial, until you apply it to the UK GDP and find it works out at £1.8 billion.
So who’s right? I suspect we’ll never know for sure, but at least the experts all agree that it’s substantially less than the £3.4 billion bonus pot being shared out among Goldman Sachs staff for the first three months of 2010!