Friday, April 29, 2011

Riders by the millions, costs in the billions

The major cities of the U.S. heartland, separated by miles of farms and small towns could carry 43 million passengers per year on a high-speed rail system and bring in $2.2 billion in annual user generated revenues, says a report from a group called the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

A recently completed study from the group shows that linking 13 cities with major metropolitan areas – with Chicago as a focal point – could support a four spoke network bringing in Cleveland/Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Minneapolis/St Paul. Trains would operate at 220 miles per hour on dedicated track.

The Association worked with rail equipment producer Siemens, which sponsored the study along with various economic research groups.

"We believe that a high speed rail system will unify the Midwest and solidify its future position as one the world's most powerful economies," said Richard Harnish, executive director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association. "The economic impact of the 220-mph network on the Midwest would be staggering. In the Chicago area alone, it would create thousands of new jobs and business opportunities that will support and enhance the Chicago metropolitan area's global competitiveness."

It’s an attractive prospect: the thought of the Iron Horse again galloping across the heartland. But any such notions need to be tempered with economic realities. Especially in light of the fact that Congress’s appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2010 was cut by $400 million to $2.1 billion the $1 billion appropriation for FY2011 has been eliminated. A system of high-speed trains envisioned by the Association would cost US$83.6 billion.

However, one leg of the four-spoke network, the high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis continues into its second phase. This year, the high-speed rail construction will take place between Elkhart and Dwight in Illinois. 

In his April 15 blog, Harnish said at the annual meeting April 30, the Association will announce “a new initiative to help make the vision of high speed rail a reality.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Austrian Airlines and coffee

A little digging by an intrepid staffer this week reveals that the Air France food truck that toured Manhattan earlier this month wasn't the first airline sponsored venture teamed with the food truck trend that is becoming popular in the United States.

Last summer, Austrian Airlines drove a Cafe-to-Go truck through the streets of Washington D.C. and New York treating visitors to the Viennese coffee culture. This past fall, the airline teamed with Schnitzel & Things handing out free variations on the favorite dishes of Austrians.

Austrian Airlines, in the past has given its passengers award winning service,  including the finest in Viennese coffees, with the help of its longtime association with Austrian caterer Do & Co.

Friday, April 15, 2011

IFSA confirms two speakers

The International Flight Services Association (IFSA) has recently added two more speakers for its Annual Conference and Exhibition September 12-14 in Seattle.

On September 13, the Keynote speaker will be Dr. Victor Gielisse, the associate vice president of business development at the Culinary Institute of America. Chef Gielisse comes with a long list of credentials. He has worked in culinary endeavors in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa before touching down at the CIA. He has owned an award winning restaurant Actuelle in Dallas and has served as chairman of the American Culinary Federation. He was coach and advisor to the American Culinary Federation Culinary team USA and judged culinary events around the world.

He is the author of Cuisine Actuelle and In Good Taste, A Contemporary Approach to Cooking and Modern Batch Cookery. He has been recognized as one of The 50 New Tastemakers in the United States and was named Best Seafood Chef in America by Restaurant and Business magazine.

In addition to being one of the most important training grounds for restaurant cooks in the country the Culinary Institute of America is a partner with United Airlines. Chef Gielisse worked for several years with United after forming his consulting firm, Culinary Fast Trac and Associates collaborating with the carrier’s former corporate executive chef Eric Kopelow on the carrier’s menu and products.


An airline man will be the Keynote speaker September 14. Simon Talling-Smith, the executive vice president of the Americas for British Airways will bring his extensive commercial and customer service experience to the podium.

When he was based in London, Talling-Smith was in charge of handling the operations of the airline’s 14,000 flight attendants and its catering services. He has also managed British Airways’ brand and products portfolio and was involved in a series of customer service improvement programs and had a hand in developing the company’s website.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On the road for inflight retail

Cabin crew on the British airline Monarch have been learning finer points of effective inflight retail sales from its retail concessionaire, Alpha.

In November and December of last year, Alpha representatives met with cabin crew from Monarch at the airline’s stations in Manchester, Gatwick and Luton Airports. Dubbed “roadshows,” the visits by Alpha representatives filled cabin crew in on incentive programs, meal options, electronic point of sale requirements and bar packing design.

One cabin crewmember, Nealie Howard, was also treated to lunch, a limousine ride and Wii game council for naming the outreach program to cabin crew. Howard, who is based in Gatwick Airport, picked the name Retail Detail for the new initiative.

Monarch flies to some interesting holiday spots and has an impressive assortment of inflight products for sale. Meals can be ordered up to 24 hours in advance. Duty free products are available through its Explorer magazine.

 (L-R) Jackie Lee, Monarch, Nealie Howard, Monarch Winner and Gerry Delaney, Alpha
Gerry Delaney, Alpha’s business development manager, said the roadshows were clearly a two-way street where the company sought input as well as the chance to educate cabin crew. “It’s our intention to listen to what they have to say and incorporate it into future plans,” he said in yesterday's news release on the program.

Comprehensive programs like this are an indication of how important inflight retail sales have become. Sales have been pegged at more than US$1.4 billion per year and in its recent White Paper, LSG Sky Chefs estimated that buy-on-board will grow 12 percent by 2012.