Do reactions to volcanic eruptions give insight into crisis management: An example from Icelandair

Regína Ásdísardóttir, Runólfur Smári Steinþórsson


The 2010 volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull had an extensive impact on the Icelandic society, especially on air traffic due to the volcanic ash cloud which emerged. Flight disturbance also occurred in large parts of Europe, causing air routes to close down, hindering passengers to proceed with their travelling. Icelandair, Iceland´s largest airline company, was hugely affected by this extreme situation, which made the continuing of operations a great challenge. The subject of this article is to investigate whether and how a case study on Icelandair´s reactions, during the peak of disturbance on operations, can give an insight into crisis management. The research is explorative with the purpose of understanding various variables and influencing factors on crisis management and to bring out interesting questions for future investigations. In the article the concepts of crisis and crisis management are defined, the course of events and Icelandair´s reactions are expounded, and results and conclusions are summarized in answers to the research questions. The main conclusions are; first that the situation that occurred in Icelandair because of the volcanic eruption can be defined as a crisis. Second, that a crisis committee, information and co-operation with stakeholders were important factors in the company´s reaction. Third, that due to the particular type of crisis in question, based on the experience and knowledge within the company, Icelandair´s reactions unfolded as emergent activities.


Volcanic eruption; crisis; crisis management; operational risk; emergent activities.

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