Friday, February 25, 2011

A new arrival

Though unsettling news of unrest in the Middle East and earthquakes in New Zealand occurred during this year’s International Travel Catering Association event, there was also the joyous announcement of a new arrival to the travel-catering scene.

Maryam Shams Fasola Bologna and husband Lorenzo Fasola Bologna of Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, a longtime supplier of wine and olive oil to the industry, noted the birth of their first child, Frederico Fasola Bologna, born at 09:28 February 16, weighing in at 4 kilograms 4 grams.

Congratulations and best wishes to mother and father. 

For safety's sake

Given all the unrest in the world, it’s starting to look like one of the safest places to be is in the cabin of an airliner at 35,000 feet.

It seems 2010 was the safest in aviation history for passengers flying in Western-built jets. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported this week a global accident rate of 0.61 per million flights. So, the chances of being in an accident while traveling in a Western-built jet aircraft are not one in a million, but now approaching one in two million.

IATA noted that last year, there were 17 hull losses involving western built jets. A hull loss is when an aircraft is destroyed beyond repair, resulting in 786 fatalities.

Other statistics noted by IATA: The accident rate in the last 10 years has been cut 42 percent. A total of 2.4 billion people flew safely on 36.8 million fights last year. But as always, IATA noted there was room for improvement and the ultimate goal, of course, is a year of zero accidents and zero fatalities. 

"We must remain focused and determined to move closer to this goal year by year,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

There’s an old saying that goes: The media never show up to report on an aircraft that has landed safely an on time at its destination. But the safety of the airline industry is a credit to its employees and a blessing to the people they serve. As tricky as air travel always will be, the consistency and reliability shown from this report should be enough to make anyone who works in the industry feel proud. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grounds for a memorable flight

I’m catching an early morning flight tomorrow to Newark on Delta’s regional carrier Mesaba Aviation before heading on to Lisbon and later to the International Travel Catering Association exhibition in Nice. 

After all these years of living in the Twin Cities, I’m still not quite used to the idea of a Minnesota without Northwest Airlines. And Mesaba, whose name is an Ojibwe Indian word meaning “soaring eagle,” was so closely tied to the Northwest brand that when a summer pilot’s strike at the big airline slowed air travel to a trickle out of MSP, the “soaring eagle” shut down operations completely.

But what I do not miss about Northwest was the coffee, a particularly tepid instant blend of a brand that I know tastes better in other environments. But I won’t get the chance to sample the new offering of Seattle’s Best coffee that will be boarded on Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection flights starting March 1. It appears that Delta took a very scientific approach to the selection before picking a blend known as Level 4.

I’m a bit more coffee conscious as well after completing a story for this issue of PAX International about the six new Caffè Ritazza coffee drinks that can be found in their airport shops in nearly every corner of the world, except, for now, the United States.

And even though I miss Northwest Airlines, it’s gratifying to see what Delta is doing, less than five years on in its merger. The airline has engaged in a high profile, US$2 billion “investment in customer experience” that is taking place on the ground and in the air.
Artists rendering of Delta terminal
check-in at JFK 

Where Delta’s investment will really be noticed is at the JFK hub where an expanded and enhanced Terminal 4 will be relieving choke points, improving access to connections and giving premium passengers and new Delta Sky Club. According to the Delta website, the terminal is scheduled to be completed in 2013.


Professor Peter Jones at the University of Surrey reflects on a study by one of his graduate students, where people were surveyed in  different ways about their air travel experience. He writes about it in his blog out today. The findings of masters student Si Chen reveal that while food service on airlines is ranked well down on their list of important aspects of their air travel experience in a closed question survey, a majority of respondents in a study group that were asked what they recalled most about their last flight picked food and beverage first “hence, potential importance,” he says. 

If I were surveyed, I would probably tell him about the coffee. 

-Rick Lundstrom

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A tour of Emirates Flight Catering....

The Middle East online news site AME Info has a two-part series on Emirates Flight Catering that registered users can access. In the first part a newsman, Phil Blizzard, dons the white coat and and blue hair net ensemble that so many of us have worn from time to time. Part one takes the visitor to the section of the unit that handles Emirates flights. White Miso Soup for Osaka flights, Red Miso Soup for Tokyo flights. Fresh and colorful looking sushi for the Japan routes.

The second part takes us to a curry-scented hot kitchen and on to dessert. Host from Emirates Flight Catering is John Earnshaw, assistant vice president.

Emirates Flight Catering, is averaging 90,000 to 95,000 meals per day and has a staff of 6,000.

AME Info is an excellent source for news out of the Middle East.