Over the weekend I joined United Airlines and members of their cargo team on a trip to Bogota, Colombia for a story about how flowers get from there to here for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and special occcasions (such as my upcoming birthday).
I’ll be putting together a story for my At the Airport column on USA TODAY, but on my loyaver here in Houston, I wanted to share some pics from the farm tour of Jaroma Roses, about an hour outside Bogota, which ships about 30 million stems each year.
Earth Day, which has been celebrated annually since 1970, falls on Sunday, April 22 and hotels, airport, airline and other segments of the travel industry are joining in to draw attention to environmental movements worldwide.
Hotels ditching those tiny plastic bottles, offering Earth Day events
This week, 450 hotels across Marriott International’s Classic Brands, including Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites and TownePlace properties, began replacing individually wrapped soaps and tiny .7 ounce plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner with shower-product dispenser systems.
The dispensers contain Paul Mitchell Tea Tree brand products and Marriott estimates that the average hotel will divert from landfills more than 23,000 tiny bottles, or 250 pounds of plastic, per year. Overall, Marriott International hopes that, once the switchover is completed at 1500 of its hotels, it will do away with more than 10.4 million plastic bottles and save more than 113,000 pounds of plastic each year.
1Hotels, with properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York and in Miami’s South Beach, is kicking off its ‘Earth Day Every Day’ campaign this weekend with a series of events and talks. Each property will also be creating lobby “action centers” designed to both educate guests about environmental issues and encourage them to take action by contacting federal, state and local legislators.
Also, in honor of Earth Day and National Park Week (April 21-29), participating Travelodge Hotels are offering guests a “Celebrate Earth Day” rate of 25 percent off Best Available Rates for stays completed by April 30, 2018. Details here .
Airport restaurants and airlines make Earth Day efforts
On Earth Day, 200 Delaware North-operated restaurants at 23 airports and highway travel hubs across the United States are kicking off a campaign to reduce plastic waste by offering drinking straws only by request. With “The Last Straw” campaign, the company hopes to significantly cut back on the estimated 8.1 million plastic drinking straws it handed out last year.
Airlines are also joining in with Earth Day efforts.
On Thursday, April 19, Delta Air Lines bought carbon offsets for an estimated 170,000 corporate and leisure domestic passengers who traveled into or out of seven major airports, including Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Raleigh, and all three New York-area airports. The airline’s carbon offset program calculates the carbon emissions per customer and then invests in projects that provide social benefits and reduce emissions.
“We know that many of our customers are engaged in their own personal and corporate sustainability efforts and want to extend those efforts to travel,” said Christine Boucher, Delta’s managing director for Global Environment, Sustainability & Compliance, in a statement, “We’re proud to help them do that through this program and projects that expand our global sustainability efforts.”
And on Earth Day Air Canada plans to save 160 tons of carbon on 22 domestic flights out of Toronto-Pearson International Airport by blending 230,000 liters (more than 60,000 gallons) of sustainable biofuel into the airport’s fuel supply system.
“Our participation is one way Air Canada is reducing its footprint and also helping our entire industry improve its environmental performance,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive of Air Canada.
You also have until April 30 to vote in the JetBlue for Good campaign which will award grants of $15,000 each to 4 earth-friendly causes. If you vote, you’ll also get an entry in a contest for 2 roundtrip travel certificates with carbon offsets to reduce the eco-impact of your travel.
My ‘At the Airport’ column for USA Today this month was all about the journey luggage takes between the check-in counter and the plane.
Here’s a slightly shortened version of the original column:
For passengers, the route from airport curb, through security, to the gate and onto the plane usually proceeds in straightforward, if often slow, irritating and all too familiar steps.
But what about the journey checked luggage takes from the check-in counter to the plane?
That process is a mystery to most travelers, but not a secret, so I visited Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to follow the route luggage takes from the ticket counter, into the “bag well” (a noisy, cavernous, machine and luggage-filled area where all checked bags spend time) and out to the planes.
But, at just about every airport, the route a bag takes from the check-in counter to the plane continues to be, essentially, the same.
“You come into the airport lobby and you or an agent at your airline ticket counter puts a bag tag on the bag,” said Ed Weitz, Capital Project Manager for the Port of Seattle. “The airline then associates that bag tag with a ten-digit code and puts it on the [moving] belt so it can go through the wall and into the airport’s baggage handling system on the other side.”
At SEA, the ‘other side’ is like a highway made up of 12 miles of conveyor belts (10 miles for outbound bags; 2 for inbound bags headed to bag claim). Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has 14 miles of conveyors across its five terminals and, at Los Angeles International Airport, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), which processes about 25,000 outbound bags a day, has 3 miles of conveyor all its own.
By contrast, at tiny Walla Walla Regional Airport in Washington State, where there are 4 or 5 roundtrip flights a day (depending on the day) there are 20 feet of conveyor belts in the bag handling system. At Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton, which offers 3 roundtrips daily to Portland on Boutique Air, “Bags travel about 25 yards on a private, hand-pushed baggage cart, often by the same person that checked you in,” said airport manager Steven Chrisman.
I wasn’t able to travel with the bags on the conveyors at the Seattle Airport, but both DFW Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport have shared short videos offering thrilling bag eye-views of the journey.
At SEA, checked bags from various airlines mingle together on the conveyor system that first takes the bags to and through one the TSA’s Explosives Detection System (EDS) machines.
If the bags are cleared, they go to the ‘sortation’ phase of their journey, where luggage tags are automatically scanned and bags are divvied up by airline.
After that, a system of diverters sends bags by batches of flights to a carousel ‘makeup’ area where bag handlers armed with tag readers stand ready to manually separate bags by flight.
“As the bag comes through on the conveyor belt, I scan it to see if it’s a bag for my flight,” said Delta Air Lines Ramp Agent Kim Farrington. If so, Farrington transfers the bag from the carousel to a cart that, when full, gets driven out to the plane where handlers move the bags from the cart to a belt loader that sends them up into the plane.
For wide-body aircraft, containers filled with baggage may be taken from the bag well and loaded directly into the hold.
On Delta, and other airlines that have embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) tags into the traditional bag tags, there’s an added step: a photo eye reads the RFID into on the bag tag as its goes onto the plane and notifies a passenger via an app that their bags have been loaded. When the bags come off the plane at the other end, the photo eye reads it again and lets the passenger know they’ll soon be reunited with their luggage.
That includes making sure old luggage tags are removed and new ones are put on neatly.
“If you are self-tagging, don’t put the tag somewhere where it can slip off,” said Howard, “And be sure to peel off the little secondary ‘bingo’ tag from the bag tag and put it somewhere else on the bag so we can read that if the main tag falls off.”
Howard also advises passengers to “neaten up,” their luggage before checking it in. That includes securing loose straps that might get caught in the conveyor belt rollers and machinery and making sure not to check bags that are over packed or those with faulty or straining zippers or closures that could pop open during the bag’s journey.