Red Cross

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.)


How to donate airline miles, hotel points & money to storm relief efforts

LaGuardia Airport during the storm. Courtesy Port Authority New York & New Jersey

A lot of people need – and will continue to need – help recovering from Superstorm Sandy and several airlines are offering incentives for their customers to make cash donations to the Red Cross and other relief organizations.

Here are a few options:

JetBlue  is matching up to $50,000 in customer donations to the Red Cross and will give 6 TrueBlue points for every dollar you donate through 11/30/12.

On Thursday, the United Airlines Foundation announced that it upped from $50,000 to $100,000 the amount of donations it will match to the American Red Cross, AmeriCares and Feeding America. MileagePlus members who give a minimum of $50 will receive 250 bonus miles, and those who contribute $100 or more will receive 500 bonus miles. Find details here.

American Airlines is encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross as well. Through November 30, 2012, AAdvantage members can earn a one-time award of 250 AAdvantage bonus miles for a minimum $50 donation, or 500 AAdvantage bonus miles for a donation of $100. Details here.

The Delta Air Lines Foundation has given $100,000 to the Red Cross for storm relief and is encouraging customers to donate Sky Miles to the Red Cross for storm relief.

This page on the Red Cross website lists ways you can donate miles from Delta, United and US Airways and this page on the Red Cross website lists ways you can donate credit card rewards and hotel points from Choice Hotels, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood properties.

Hilton HHonors has partnered with GlobalGiving and from now until December 31, 2012 will give you 10 HHonors Bonus Points for every $1 USD donated to support the relief efforts. Hilton is also  matching all donations up to $100,000. Donate here.

Starwood has announced that it will match donations of at least 2,000 Starpoints made by members of the Starwood Preferred Guests program to the American Red Cross through November 30, 2012. (2,0000 Starpoints equals a $25 donation.) Donate here.

Know of another airline, hotel, car rental or travel-related organization offering matches or bonuses to those who help out with storm relief? Let me know and I’ll update this list.


Souvenir Sunday: Japanese earthquake relief

Despite the incredible story about an 80-year old woman and her grandson found alive nine days (!) after the earthquake, the news out of Japan just seems to get worse. Relief efforts are extensive – and expensive – so donate some money if you can.

You can donate directly to the American Red Cross through its website or make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999 on a cell phone.

Many airlines are encouraging travelers to donate to the Red Cross by offering a mileage bonus as a reward.

Through April 15, 2011 American Airlines AAdvantage members can earn a one-time reward of 250 AAdvantage bonus miles for a minimum $50 donation, or 500 AAdvantage bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more.

Through April 30th, 2011, United Airlines Mileage Plus members can earn a one-time award of 250 Mileage Plus bonus award miles for donations between $50 and $99, and 500 Mileage Plus bonus award miles for a donation of $100 or more.

Through April 30th, 2011, Continental Airlines OnePass members can earn a one-time award of 250 OnePass bonus miles for donations between $50 and $99, or 500 OnePass bonus miles for a donation of $100.

Alaska Airlines, and several other airlines are also encouraging cash donations to the American Red Cross and other relief agencies through through their websites. Delta Air Lines has pledged $1 million in cash and in-kind support to relief efforts and set up a special website for Red Cross donations.

Many airlines also allow you to to donate air miles you’ve already banked to the Red Cross for use by relief workers and volunteers.

Hotels and other travel-related businesses are also encouraging their loyalty plan members to contribute to relief efforts. 

Hilton Hotels is matching donations of HHonors points with a cash donation of up to $250,000. Contributions will go to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Best Western, Starwood, and Marriott are among the hotel groups encouraging the donation of points and cash as well.

Do what you can.

Tidbits for travelers: Free trips and free flu shots

Doesn’t Paris sound good right about now?

Then sign up to win a pair of tickets (from Pittsburgh) to Paris – courtesy of Pittsburgh’s WHIRL Magazine, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Delta Air Lines, Entries will be accepted through May 7, 2010. But why wait?

Lufthansa Airlines isn’t giving away tickets to Paris, but if you suggest the winning name of the airline’s new A380 airplane, you’ll win a million miles and can go where you want.

The names I entered? Spot. Pookie. Stripe.

Think you can do better?  Then enter Lufthansa’s contest here.

[And keep in mind: Lufthsansa pilots are planning  a strike from February 22-25, 2010. So if you already have a trip scheduled during those days, be sure to check with the airline on the status of your flight.]

It’s still flu season and there are still lots of airports where you can get a seasonal or H1N1 flu vaccine.

If you’re heading to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) you can get an H1N1 flu shot (or mist ) for free.

For the fourth year in a row the airport is partnering with local health organizations to offer free flu vaccines to passengers.  The vaccines will be available Monday, February 22 through Friday, February 26 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 4 on level 3 before the security checkpoints on both the east and west ends

And, when you’re shopping at an airport in the next few weeks, consider dropping some bills into one of the collection boxes  the Hudson Group has placed in each of its airport stores, including Hudson News, Hudson Booksellers, cafes and specialty retail shops.  The company is matching customer donations and will forward all contributions to the American Red Cross for the relief efforts in Haiti.