Main News April 1
Seattle on a charge
The Port of Seattle, along with Alaska Airlines and Western Washington Clean Cities, has unveiled a new project aimed at providing nearly 600 electric charging stations throughout the airport for ground support equipment: items will include baggage tugs, bag ramps and pushback vehicles.
By converting the GSE from fossil fuel to electric, those behind the project calculate that each year savings of around US$2.8m in airline fuel costs as well as 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be achievable: this equates to the removal of 1,900 cars from the road.
The port has installed bright yellow charging corrals with smart, fast-charging plug-ins for vehicles which will be able to receive a full charge in fewer than four hours. The smart technology determines which vehicle needs the most charge and meters out the power. The initial phase will provide 296 charging locations throughout concourse C, D and the north satellite. The second phase will cover the rest of the terminal at concourse A, B and the south satellite, for a total of 576 charging locations by September.
“This project provides the infrastructure for airlines to convert their vehicles from diesel to electric in Sea-Tac’s effort to become the first major airport in the US to provide charging stations at all gates,” commented Courtney Gregoire, Co-President, Port of Seattle Commission. “As many as 650 vehicles could eventually be covered by electric technology and make a huge difference in the airport’s carbon footprint.”
Alaska Airlines has taken the lead in this green opportunity, and has 204 electric vehicles (146 with Alaska, 58 with Horizon) in operation on the ground at Sea-Tac. The environmental benefits are substantial, since Alaska’s conversion to electric vehicles is the equivalent of taking 360 passenger vehicles off the road for a year, or a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of around 1,000 tons a year.
“Switching from fossil fuels to electric-powered equipment not only benefits the environment by reducing carbon emissions and fuel use, but the transition is expected to save Alaska Air Group about US$300,000 a year in fuel costs,” commented Jeff Butler, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President of the Airport Operations and Customer Service segment. “These sustainability efforts help us keep our costs down in order to provide better value for our customers.”
Federal grants have provided the bulk of the US$31m project. The US Department of Energy provided US$5m through a grant with the Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition and US$3.5m came from a Federal Aviation Administration grant. Part of the grant money is being used to help airlines fund the purchase of new electric vehicles. Encouragingly, additional airlines are scheduled to join the program later this year.
Alaska aiming for the easiest experience
April will see Alaska Airlines launch its online self-bag-tagging options.
Self-tagging online gets underway on April 21 for passengers traveling non-stop between Seattle and San Diego, Anchorage or Juneau, whilst there are plans to expand the option for customers traveling from other airports later this summer. This launch follows the completion of a successful pilot program, which was offered to customers traveling between Seattle and Hawaii in 2013.
“Our goal is to be the easiest airline to fly. That’s why we’re introducing additional self-tagging capability so customers who prefer self-service options have the ability to print bag tags at home during the check-in process,” explains Curtis Kopf, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President of Customer Innovation. “Tagging your bags at home can save some time at the airport. If printing your bag tags at home isn’t your preference, our friendly airport staff will gladly help check your bags to your final destination.”
In consequence, travelers flying to or from any of the four debut cities will receive a pre-trip e-mail with a link to request a free reusable bag tag holder by mail. Tag holders will also be available for collection at each of the four airports. Passengers who elect to self-tag will enjoy a designated Self-Tag Express lane when they arrive at the airport.
Luggage theft: arrests made at Los Angeles
Following a period of sustained police surveillance at Los Angeles airport, in March officers swooped on the homes of a number of baggage handlers suspected of pilfering bags at the airport over a period of months.
According to reports 14 handlers, all working for Menzies, were detained whilst a further six were arrested. Police have revealed that further workers may also be implicated in this scheme, which allegedly has involved the theft of thousands of valuable items from passenger bags as they made their way through the sorting systems at the airport. Acting on the spike in passenger complaints at Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley, the UK-headquartered handling company was identified. For its part Menzies has been working with the LAX and the Los Angeles police departments in an effort to resolve the situation.