I am here at Abu Dhabi Airport. My flight was supposed to depart at 2.15am. It’s now 9am and we’ve been told the flight may take off at 11am. So you can imagine the state of the place and the state of me! There’s no point in getting angry at staff, who are trying their best to deal with a mega systems failure. There has been a collapse of the Etihad infrastructure: poor visibility due to fog, lights on the runways have gone out, crews are not able to make their connection and now there is a massive backlog of planes queuing up on the runways with no one to fly them.
Obviously, now that the backlog is into many, many hours, lots of the crew who could work are prevented from doing so as they would be over the acceptable working hours per week or month. Here in the business lounge after 12 hours, it’s like a refugee camp for people with lots of air miles, and the levels of middle-aged male indignation is rising ever higher. The Filipino stewards are doing their best, but they have about as much idea about what is going on as the rest of us. However, their Etihad uniforms makes them legitimate targets for customer ire.
This collapse this morning got me thinking about systems’ failures in general.
Running an airline and an airport that prides itself on being a transit hub is an extremely tricky business and – as everything is profoundly interconnected – when something small goes wrong, like fog in the early morning, everything can collapse. You’d hope that this would not be the case, indeed you convince yourself that this can’t be the case, but it is.
Systems can be very fragile and the difference between smooth organisation and total chaos is, in reality, very small. The possibility of contagion – in this case with flights, connections and crews – is everywhere. Like the ecosystem of a rain forest, each small change can have an amplified effect on activity somewhere further down the food chain.
Deeply unstable set-up
These changes, which on their own don’t seem to add up to much, can profoundly affect the health of some creature or plant. Similarly, the airline network with its web of connecting flights, each one depending on each other, is a deeply unstable set-up.
Financial markets are similarly integrated ecosystems and the question is whether they are becoming more – or less – stable……………………………
full article at source: http://www.davidmcwilliams.ie/2014/03/10/russian-roulette-in-an-unstable-world?utm_source=Website+Subscribers&utm_campaign=e3ce0a49c4-22112012&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_861a00f27d-e3ce0a49c4-266228133