The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, whose name no one can seem to pronounce (it's ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl), made a pronounced impact on business travel last month.
More than 80% of the 234 businesses worldwide surveyed by the National Business Travelers Assn. said they had employees either stranded or delayed because the volcano's eruption grounded thousands of flights into and out of Europe.
In all, more than 310,000 business travelers were stuck away from home, costing each company an average of nearly $200,000 in unexpected travel expenses, according to the survey released last month.
The association also said the volcano forced the cancellation of nearly 5,600 corporate meetings and more than 165,000 total trips.
"The direct financial impact of this incident in terms of additional travel spend is astounding," said Michael W. McCormick, the group's executive director.
Although skies over Europe have cleared somewhat, allowing airlines to resume flying, the effects of the business losses will linger, McCormick said. "Meetings were canceled, clients were not met, hands were not shaken and deals were not made."
LaHood holds firm on flight-delay fines
Ray LaHood shouldn't hold out much hope for an invitation to the American Airlines office party.
And perhaps he shouldn't expect Delta Air Lines to send him a Facebook "friend request" any time soon.
The U.S. Transportation secretary has repeatedly irked some airline officials since adopting a new federal regulation that fines air carriers for leaving passengers stranded on delayed flights for more than three hours. The law took effect last week.
Under the law, the airlines can also be fined for failing to give passengers who are stuck for more than two hours access to food, water or a working bathroom.
Airlines that violate the law can face penalties of up to $27,500 per passenger.
In case any carriers thought LaHood didn't have the fortitude to pull the trigger on the fines, he reaffirmed his position during a conference call last week.
"There will be strong enforcement," LaHood told reporters. "I just think that it has to be part of our plan to make sure that passengers understand and that airlines understand we're serious about this."
LaHood also showed last week that he's not taking excuses.
Five airlines — JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines and US Airways —had asked for temporary exemptions because of delays caused by runway construction at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"This is an important consumer protection," LaHood said, "and we believe it should take effect as planned."
If you're canceling your conference in Arizona anyway …
One of the first groups to boycott Arizona after its governor signed a controversial anti-immigration bill was the American Immigration Lawyers Assn.
The national group of more than 11,000 attorneys was scheduled to hold a meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., in September. But, protesting the new law, the group canceled.
The association says its leaders have yet to decide where to relocate the gathering.
Mark Liberman, chief executive of LA Inc., the Los Angeles convention and visitors bureau, said the lawyers group called his office recently to discuss holding it in the city of Angeles.
"If we have the space," he said, "we would be happy to welcome this convention."
Los Angeles is going after any group boycotting Arizona that needs a new meeting location, LA Inc. spokeswoman Carol Martinez said.
"It's an extremely competitive environment," she said. "We are actively pursuing any and all leads."