By Shashank Nigam

For the first time on the web (and in English!), in this exclusive interview with SimpliFlying, we hear directly from the horse’s mouth. Aurelie Valtat was the person leading Eurocontrol’s much talked-about ashcloud response, and personally helped out thousands of stranded passengers using social media.

On April 14, 2010, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano [i still can’t pronounce the name!] resulted in chaos — more than 100,000 flight cancellations between April 15 and 21 — affecting millions of travelers, and the fallout cost the airline industry $1.7 billion. The silver lining was social media – and how airlines and authorities reached out to stranded passengers to help them out. And Eurocontrol led from the front. Eurocontrol’s efforts were much admired on this blog, and on other leading websites like Mashable.

In my conversation with Aurelie, she spoke at length about how she handled the tasks, challenges encountered and lessons learnt. Below is a summary of the exclusive video interview (Click here if you’re unable to watch the video interview)

  • What Eurocontrol does? (0:31)
  • An overview of how the events unfolded after the eruption (1:02)
  • Why the public was being informed by Eurocontrol? (1:55)
  • Why Eurocontrol set up their social media assets in the first place? (2:40)
  • How the concerns of aviation professionals as well as passengers were handled through multiple channels (3:10)
  • How Aurelie handled all requests and processes herself? (3.55)
  • How were decisions on content on social media taken? (4:40)
  • What were some of the challenges encountered in the process? (5:35)
  • How working with other Twitterers like @airlineindustry helped use of common hashtags (6:33)
  • Key indicators of success? (7:10)
  • In hindsight, what would have been done differently? (7:41)
  • Why collaborating with airlines was important (8:21)
  • How will crises management be better in a future eruption? (9:00)

So, what do you think about EuroControl’s handling of the crisis? Is it repeatable? Isn’t it refreshing to learn about such a visionary effort in times of crises? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

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