Just before Christmas we had great footage of chaos in European airports as snowstorms left travellers stranded in mid-Christmas journey. Yesterday we had a lucky escape from the Australian version as storms saw planes turned back from Brisbane airport all morning. Fortunately we flew in the evening and were only an hour late, but there was chaos in Sydney airport as passengers queued for hours and airline staff desperately pleaded for Sydney residents to go home and try again the next day.
The British government is talking about whether it might have to upgrade its airports to make them snow-proof. I don't think you can do the same for tropical storms. There's no protection from wind, thunder and lightening except to stay indoors and wait it out. If it blows hard enough even that doesn't help.
In any case, I wonder how temporary this will all be. It's not too many years ago that we would spend 24 hours on a bus to Sydney because the plane was so expensive. Now it's way cheaper by air and most of the bus companies have gone out of business. Yet whenever I do one of those carbon footprint calculations, despite my frugal turning off of switches, cycling, public transport use and composting I'm in the exploitative zone as a result of frequent air travel. I buy carbon offsets, but I doubt it's enough.
In any case, cheap air travel has to be on borrowed time. As peak oil looms, airlines and their customers will just have to pay more - if the supply is even there. Once again we'll think twice before we fly, holiday close to home like we did as kids, and take the bus more often. We'll no longer be able to see some of those rellies we love quite so often and that will be a little sad. But the National Broadband Network will make Skype even more lifelike. Meanwhile, perhaps the airports will become scrapyards, a couple of terminals and runways in occasional use by those rich enough for the luxury while the rest sits deserted, summer and winter, storm and sunshine.