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US Airlines Donate their Time & Resources September 3, 2005

Posted by Andrew in Uncategorized.

One would think that as jet fuel prices continue to spiral forward, US domestic carriers would take further action to cost their costs. Yet, in a tremendous show of patriotism, some American carriers are assigning aircraft to ferry supplies into areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, and to extradite refugees from the hopeless situation in the New Orleans area. Low-cost carrier Airtran Airways has so far delivered 52,000 pounds of supplies to the Gulfport area, while Northwest Airlines has concentrated on airlifting refugees from troubled areas. Hip Denver-based Frontier Airlines has created a program that allows its frequent-flier members to donate some of their accrued miles so that Red Cross personel and those affected by the storm can be transported free of charge. Other carriers have banded together to provide a shuttle service to move the homeless from the New Orleans area to shelters scattered across the nation. However, it’s unclear how long the airlines will provide these services. Many airlines, in particular Airtran, which has the largest presence at decimated Gulfport, Mississippi, have spare aircraft due to the closure of commercial service at the major airports within a 90,000 sq mile area destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Some carriers may pullout in the coming days as the situation in the Gulf region stabilizes, and as less national attention is given to the cleanup efforts. More importantly, the closure of many refineries has squeezed jet-fuel production; at least one airport, Washington Dulles, has reported the beginnings of a fuel shortage. Many airlines have reacted by enacting a process called “reverse-tankering”, where an aircraft is filled up with as much fuel as possible at the airport with the greatest supply, despite cost. Traditionally, carriers that utilize the hub and spoke prefer to fill up their airplanes at their hub’s, as they have a lower jet-fuel price locked in with their suppliers. Nonetheless, Hurricane Katrina has worsened the plight of all US carriers. The airline industry will endure the economic effects of the hurricane for many months to come, just as many other fuel-dependent industries, such as the trucking industry. But Katrina has also demonstrated that in times of intense need, the airline industry can be counted on to pool its resources and help out when a major disaster occurs. As Delta spokeswoman Benet Wilson said, “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We saw a need that needed to be filled, and we stepped in to help.”



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