Although rumblings from the Iceland Bardarbunga volcano have quieted over the weekend, its activity quickly brought back painful memories of four years ago when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul erupted. Interruptions to air travel happen every day, but none more momentous than Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010, the most significant European air space closure since World War II. The disaster caused a massive ash cloud that shut down airline activity over the Atlantic for a week.

Iceland’s recent volcanic activity had airlines around the world on alert and prepared for worst-case scenarios. While volcanic activity is still a real possibility in Iceland this week, officials have lifted a no-fly zone in the area around the volcano and most aviation experts do not expect an interruption of air service.

The incident caused important changes to European aviation policy. The European Union now gives airlines detailed information about the location and density of ash clouds but leaves the decision to fly near impacted airspace to airlines and national regulators. During the incident in 2010, officials in each country made the decision to close their airspace.

So how do airlines respond to conditions like volcanic activity and inclement weather that could deter flying in certain airspace? If they are one of many Sabre customers, they already know it’s all about state-of-the-art technology, data and flight planning.

Sabre’s flight planning experts say real-time automation and data analytics play a critical role in these situations. Although some airlines still manually plot flight plans, there are a multitude of variables that must be considered when flight planning, so automated analysis of a substantial amount of data along with a clear visual representation of the situation can  help create the most optimal route around troubled skies – in a matter of seconds when  every minute counts.

Saving fuel, reducing a jet’s carbon footprint and flying the most optimal route are important to every airline’s daily operation. In perfect flying conditions and in times of volcanic ash clouds, these are just a few of the thousands of pieces of data consumed and parsed during creation of the best flight path and time is of the essence.  Learn more about Sabre’s Flight Plan Manager and Flight Explorer.