Environment

So long, Sydney: take-aways from IATA’s meeting of world’s airline execs

The Vivid Sydney festival – which lights up iconic buildings and structures around the city – was a great backdrop for this week’s meeting of the world’s airline executives at the World Air Transport Summit (WATS) and the annual general meeting of IATA – the International Air Transport Association.

All sorts of briefings, reports, discussions, debates and newsy announcements take place at this event each year and will generate stories that will spool out over the course of the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here are just some of the highlights from the past few days:

Courtesy IATA

In his annual report, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that airlines are expected to achieve a collective net profit of $33.8 billion. That’s an average profit per passenger of $7.76 for the airlines, he explained, “A thin 4.1% net margin” in 2018.

Read his full report that also touched on safety, security, environmental issues and other topics here.

 

 

A bundle of 20-minute on-stage interviews were offered, on topics ranging from alternative fuels, gender equality in aviation, airport privatization and the benefits and risks of travel and tourism. Follow the links for more details from those sessions and videos of the interviews.

 

CNN’s gregarious Richard Quest was on stage with a panel of airline CEOs, including Calin Rovinsecu of Air Canada, Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines, Rupert Hogg of Cathay Pacific Airways, Pieter Elbers of KLM and Christoper Luxon of Air New Zealand.

 

Among the notable moments was when the all-male panel was asked to address gender equality (or the lack of it) at the top echelons of aviation:

Other sessions addressed everything from some creative ways getting passengers to and from airports more efficiently to the role airlines play in human trafficking.

For media attendees, the meeting wrapped up with a final debriefing session with IATA CEO and Director General Alexandre de Juniac, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, who will serve as chairman of the IATA Board of Governors for the next year, and Alan Joyce, CEO of the Qantas Group, which hosted the IATA AGM in Sydney.

The Qatar Airways CEO is well-known for his bravado and controversial comments, but at an event in which other CEOs expressed a committment to increasing the role of women in the upper ranks of their companies, Akbar Al Baker’s comment that of course his airline had to be run by a man, “Because it is a very challenging position” was met with disbelief.

His comment may have been a ‘joke,’ – and he did go on to mention that Qatar has women serving as pilots, as senior vice presidents and in other top-level positions – but the comment did not sit well with the group assembled (I literally jumped out of my seat!) and just underscores the fact that this sector of industry has some real homework to do.

The last (plastic) straw for Alaska Airlines

Courtesy Alaska Airlines 

Earth Day  – which this year highlighted Lonely Whale’s “For a Strawless Ocean” campaign to get people and companies to stop using plastic straws – has come and gone. But the earth still needs our help.

So it’s good to know that Alaska Airlines has jumped on the No Straws bandwagon. Starting July 16 the carrier will stop serving single-use, non-recyclable, plastic stir straws and citrus picks with drinks and will replace them with sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all domestic and international commercial flights.

What’s wrong with plastic straws?  They non-recyclalbe and if they end up on the oceans, they can kill  birds and other marine life.

In 2017, Alaska Airlines handed out 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks. This summer, they’ll instead start using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified white birch stir sticks and a bamboo alternative for the citrus pick. People with special needs will be able to request non-plastic, marine-friendly straws.

Alaska Airlines has a good history of being eco-conscious.

Since it started tracking its recycling efforts in 2010, the airline says it has reduced passenger waste going to landfills by 54 percent.

The Seattle-based carrier has also replaced bottled beer with aluminum cans -which are lighter and easier to recycle and introducted a policy to refill plastic cups rather than offering a new cup for every round of beverage service.

“Building on our grassroots, employee-led recycling program, we’re thrilled to take the next step to protecting our land and oceans by removing single-use non-recyclable plastic straws from our planes,” said Jacqueline Drumheller, sustainability manager for Alaska Airlines, in a statement.

Let’s see if other airines join the no-straw party.

Airline amenity of the week: free sunscreen on Hawaiian Airlines

Here’s a nomination for airline amenity of the week:

Hawaiian Airlines has partnered with reef-safe sun care company Raw Elements USA, to offer complimentary packets of sunscreen to passengers on all flights from North America to Hawaii throughout the month of April.

Discounted full-size bottles of the eco-friendly sunscreen will also be sold on flights to Hawaii through June.

Complimentary sunscreen is a nice gesture, but it’s also an educational one.

Preserving Hawaii’s natural resources is important and the ingredients in many traditional sunscreen products can harm Hawaii’s coral reefs.  To explain how, the airline has also debuted a new educational in-flight video, Reefs at Risk.

“Hawaii is a very special place, and we believe it is our kuleana, or responsibility, to care for our home,” Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing at Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement,

In addition to offering Hawaiian Airlines passengers complimentary sunscreen samples, Raw Elements USA is also hosting a social media sweepstakes for US residents.

The prize: two roundtrip tickets (140,000 HawaiianMiles) to Hawaii courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines, a five-night stay at The Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club (an Aqua-Aston Hospitality Hotel), the choice of three complimentary island activities, and a year’s supply of Raw Elements reef-safe sunscreen.

Entries in the Protect the Reef sweepstakes are being accepted through 4/30/18. Good luck and see you on the beach!

Honey, I’m home! Airports help bees make a comeback

Don’t worry, ‘bee’ happy: the number of honeybee colonies in the United States is on the rise and airports are doing their part to help.

The county of honeybee colonies is up from 2.8 million in April, 2016 to 2.89 million in April, 2017, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s a plus for bees, of course, but because bees are credited with pollinating more than $15 billion of U.S. crops each year, it’s also a bonus for the economy.

It’s also news because since 2006 honey bees have been disappearing from their hives and dying at unprecedented rates due to a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

The culprits may be global warming, pesticide use, habitat loss and parasites, say researchers, but (more good news) the USDA survey reports that in the first quarter of from January to March 2017 there was a 27 decrease in the number of colonies lost to the disorder compared to the first quarter of 2016.

Honey helpers

Honeybee colonies are getting some comeback help from a growing number of airports hosting beehives and sharing their sweet stories of success.

In Victoria, British Columbia, Harbour Air just put four hives with 10,000 bees on the one-acre grass roof of its floating airport terminal for seaplanes. A “bee cam” lets passengers waiting in the airport lounge below watch the bees at work and, come fall, the airline plans to offer its own “Harbour Honey” to passengers to use as sweetener in the complimentary in-terminal coffee and tea.

Besides making a contribution to the local ecosystem, “This will be an important way to educate people of all ages on the importance of honeybees to our local environment,” said Bill Fosdick the president of the Capital Region Beekeepers Association, which is overseeing the introduction of the bee colony.

In late 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport partnered with the “Bee Squad” program at the University of Minnesota to set up an apiary on airport property. Now 31 colonies are being tended to by U.S. military veterans.

Some of the honey extracted last year was sold to Chef Andrew Zimmern (of “Bizarre Foods” fame) and to General Mills to benefit the program. “We also gave some to the Veteran participants,” said Bee Squad Program director Becky Masterman, “This year’s extraction will be larger and we hope to sell some of the honey in the airport and have some used in MSP restaurants.”

Beehives were also installed at Montréal-Trudeau airport in 2015 (following a similar project at Montréal-Mirabel in 2014) and now each airport is home to about 300,000 honey bees. Some of the honey produced is sold to employees to raise funds for a local non-profit that helps low-income families and individuals; the balance is donated to local food banks.

Back in the United States, there are apiaries on property at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

At O’Hare, where the bee program is in its seventh season, there are currently 30 to 40 hives (down from a high of 75) and about one million bees on duty.

Operated by Sweet Beginnings, which gives training and jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others who may have significant barriers to finding jobs, the apiary produces about 35 pounds of honey per hive.

Under the ‘beelove’ brand, products made with the O’Hare honey, including lip balm, skincare creams, soaps and, of course, jars of raw national honey, are sold in Hudson News stores at O’Hare and in the Farmers Market kiosk in Terminal 3. Some O’Hare restaurants, including Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, also use the O’Hare honey in meals.

In 2013, the Port of Seattle teamed up with The Common Acre, a local non-profit, to place clusters of honey bee hives on unused, open land at three Seattle-Tacoma International Airport locations.

Like the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowers, both the airport and the non-profit get something valuable from the deal.

The Common Acre is collecting scientific data from the hives “crucial to understanding and supporting pollinators,” said group founder Bob Redmond, and is selling the honey to help offset costs. Among other benefits, the bees help the airport keep large birds away from airplanes by supporting the growth of dense vegetation on a former golf course area.

(A slightly different version of my story about bees at airports first appeared on CNBC)

 

 

The buzz about Victoria Harbour Airport

You can take a ferry between Seattle, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia, but it’s much faster – and far more thrilling  –  to take a seaplane and land at Victoria Harbour Airport (YWH), a floating seaplane airport that is home to Harbour Air and Kenmore Air.

To mark the first anniversary of the floating terminal, Harbour Air, which serves 9 destinations in British Columbia, put a colony of honey bees (four beehives containing about 10,00 bees) and 50 solar panels on the airport’s one-acre green roof.

A screen inside the terminal will let passengers see how much electricity the solar panels are generating and a ‘bee cam’ offers a live feed of what the bees are doing.

The airport beehives – which airline officials think may be the world’s first floating hives – are already generating honey and by fall Harbour Honey should be available for purchase in the terminal’s coffee area. Sweet!