aviation

Airline industry, non-profits save lives with flights

Airbus Foundation

Courtesy Airbus Foundation

Airlines are reporting profits and being urged to join humanitarian efforts to help plug a $15 billion funding hole in global disaster relief.

The call comes on the heels of a United Nations report that found while at least $40 billion in annual humanitarian aid is needed annually to help victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts worldwide, today the world spends only $25 billion a year on securing and getting food, water, shelter, medical supplies, support teams and other emergency resources to people in need.

That’s twelve times the amount spent 15 years ago, the report notes. But with so many in need now, new disasters cropping up all the time and the high costs associated with rushing humanitarian relief to where it will do the most good, creative solutions are needed.

And that’s where alliances between airlines, aircraft manufactures and a variety of non-governmental organizations come in.

Through its foundation, aircraft manufacturer Airbus has been filling some otherwise empty, new aircraft being delivered to customers from its factories in Hamburg, Germany and Toulouse, France with humanitarian relief supplies destined for disaster-hit regions and communities in need.

“The flights are happening anyway and the pilots and the fuel are already paid for,” said
Airbus Foundation spokeswoman Deborah Waddon, “The NGOs arrange for the cargo, we make donations for the cost of the cargo, the loading is often done for free and the airlines cover just an incremental fuel cost for the extra cargo.”

Since 2008, airlines such as Emirates, JetBlue, South African Airways, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines and a handful of others have worked with Airbus on at least 30 delivery flights that have brought more than 250 tons of humanitarian relief to areas of Nepal, Columbia, Thailand, Africa and Haiti. On more than 15 occasions, Airbus has also used its test planes to deliver additional supplies quickly in the aftermath of disasters.

For example, a test aircraft loaded with 50 humanitarian staff and about 22 tons of food and medical aid flew to Nepal in 2015 after the devastating earthquake. And a Nepal Airlines aircraft delivery flight was used to transport more than five ton of relief goods and medical equipment to Kathmandu.

“Transporting supplies is one of our main expenses, so this way we can support more people,” said Olaug Bergseth, a senior officer for corporate partnerships with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, one of the NGOs that works closely with Airbus. “It’s faster, it’s more efficient and it’s cheaper.”

Courtesy Boeing

 

Through its Humanitarian Delivery Flight program, the Boeing Company also works with nonprofit and NGOs to load everything from medical supplies and clothing to educational materials into the empty cargo space of new airplanes for transport and delivery to areas of need.

Since 1992, Boeing’s program has made 180 humanitarian delivery flights, working with more than 50 airline customers to deliver more than 1.4 million pounds of supplies.

At least 26 of those humanitarian delivery flights have been on Ethiopian Airlines, which has also helped its neighbor, Somalia, by bringing back needed supplies.

“These flights have helped transform lives with their precious cargo,” said Bill McSherry, vice president of Government Operations at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Airlink worked with Avianca Airlines to get earthquake relief supplies to Ecuador

Courtesy Airlink

Delivery flights don’t always get relief supplies exactly where they need to go, so Boeing often teams up with Airlink, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit disaster relief organization that works with more than 35 airlines and more than 60 NGOs, to transport supplies and relief workers.

“We focus a lot on disaster response, but also on what you might call slow-burn events, such as an education program in Africa that is teaching children not to play with land mines and other remnants of war,” said Airlink Executive Director Steven Smith.

Smith notes that since more than 60 percent of humanitarian funding goes to supply chain costs, the transportation and coordination services airlines and Airlink provide can help NGOs stretch budgets and be more effective.

During the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa, for example, Airlink sent healthcare workers and 100 shipments of aid for 37 different NGOs using 11 airlines.

And more recently, Airlink used donated miles and funds from Air Canada, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines to send 19 military veterans from Team Rubicon USA and Team Rubicon Canada to Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada to help out residents returning home after devastating wildfires destroyed more than 2,400 homes.

(My story about airline industry efforts to help save lives first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different form.)

 

Colorado sights seen from space at Denver Int’l Airport

DEN SATELLITE IMAGE 1

Irrigation crop circles and some of the other images in a new exhibit at Denver International Airport may look familiar to window-seat fliers – but these images of iconic Colorado locations are all taken by satellites.

DEN SATELLITE IMAGE 2

“The Centennial State from Space”, produced by Westminster, Colo.-based DigitalGlobe and on loan from the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, includes high-resolution satellite images taken from five different satellites positioned more than 400 miles above the Earth.

DEN SATELLITE IMAGE 3

Look for Coors Field, the Air Force Academy, agricultural fields in Monte Vista and more at Y-Juncture Gallery, located just past the A-bridge security checkpoint along the pedestrian walkway. The gallery will be in place through September.

(All photos courtesy Denver International Airport)

Best airlines – rated.

Courtesy SFO Museum

Courtesy SFO Museum

Virgin America had a big day yesterday: it not only was named the best airline in the U.S. in the annual Airline Quality Rating study, but it was announced the airline was bought by Alaska Airlines – the airline the study named the fifth best.

Here are this year’s Airline Quality Rating rankings for 2015, with the 2014 ranking in parentheses:

Virgin America (1)
JetBlue (4)
Delta (3)
Hawaiian (2)
Alaska (5)
Southwest (6)
SkyWest (10)
United (9)
ExpressJet (11)
American (7)
Frontier (8)
Envoy Air (12)
Spirit (new to rating in 2015)

The annual Airline Quality Rating is a highly regarded study that compares metrics for everything from on-time performance to customer complaints and is a joint venture between Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and DWichita State University.

The report concludes that overall, the airline industry collectively improved in three of the four core elements traced by the AQR study: on-time performance, rate of involuntary denied boardings, and the rate of mishandled baggage.

But the rate of customer complaints increased to its highest level in 15 years, per passenger served.

Other tidbits from the report:

On-time performance: Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance (88.4 percent) for 2015, and Spirit had the worst (69.0 percent).

Involuntary denied boardings: Least (best): JetBlue and Hawaiian, with a rate of 0.02 and 0.03 per 10,000 passengers, respectively. Envoy (2.35), ExpressJet (1.86) and SkyWest (1.78) had the highest involuntary denied boarding rates per 10,000 passengers.

Baggage handling: Virgin America had the best baggage handling rate (0.84 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers) of all airlines, and Envoy Air had the worst baggage handling rate (8.52 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers).

Consumer complaints: Alaska had the lowest consumer complaint rate (0.50 per 100,000 passengers) of all airlines. Spirit had the highest consumer complaint rate (11.73 per 100,000 passengers).

See the full report here.

The tech connected flight attendant

MuseumofFlightfashions

Don’t be alarmed if the cabin attendants on your next flight seem to be spending a lot of time looking at their personal electronic devices.

They’re not checking Facebook, watching the latest cute cat video on YouTube or posting to Instagram or Twitter about the antics of the jerk in Row 12.

More likely they’re using their airline-issued digital devices to determine which passengers will have tight – or impossible – connections, who’s having a birthday and who is entitled to a complimentary drink.

In the same way mobile technology has lightened the loads of pilots by replacing pounds of paper charts and manuals with programmed iPads, apps on mobile devices that can conduct sales and access passenger information are changing the way flight attendants work in and out of the cabin – and helping airlines improve their bottom line.

Read more about how new tech devices for flight attendants are helping to upgrade passenger services in a story I wrote for Fortune.

Souvenir Sunday: Airport Tower gifts

It’s Souvenir Sunday – a day we look at some of the fun, inexpensive things you can get at airports or, today, aviation museums.

Through November, 2016, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum is hosting an impressive exhibition of photographs by Carolyn Russo exploring the Art of the Airport Tower.

Reagan National Airport , photo by Carolyn Russo

Reagan National Airport tower, photo by Carolyn Russo

StuckatTheAirport.com reader Robert Little went to see the exhibition and enjoyed it so much he went home with some Art of the Airport Tower souvenirs – and sent along these photos for Souvenir Sunday.

(As a thank-you for participating in Souvenir Sunday, I’m sending Robert a collectible airplane model. Don’t tell him.)

Art of the airport tower souvenirs 2

Airport Tower souvenirs

There’s a nice sampling of Russo’s photos accompanying this interview I did with her for NBC online, but I’m sure seeing the images in person are far better. And, if you’re a fan of great photography and/or aviation (or know someone who is), I’d encourage you to buy the Art of the Airport Tower book.