Southwest seats repurposed
Would you wear a shoe that has already traveled hundreds of thousands of miles? That’s not such an outrageous idea under a charitable program announced this month by Southwest Airlines.
The Dallas-based carrier launched “Project Luvseat,” in which 43 acres of leather from hundreds of old airline seats will be donated to charitable groups in Kenya to make soccer balls, purses and shoes.
The airline has lots of excess leather since it began two years ago to install new seats with thinner backrests covered in a lighter synthetic material.
Southwest has already sent two shipping containers full of leather to Kenya and has 14 more waiting to go. Samples and test pieces have been created, and a paid training program began last week to show workers in Kenya how to turn the leather into products.
“With the amount of leather we have, we anticipate that this will be a long-term effort over the next couple of years,” said Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.
Passenger fee revenue climbing
The latest study on passenger fees collected by the world’s airlines reached a predictable conclusion: Airlines are pocketing more than ever.
The annual tally by IdeaWorksCompany, a Wisconsin-based consultant to the airline industry, found that 59 airlines collected $31.5 billion in fees in 2013, compared with $27.1 billion for 53 airlines in 2012.
More surprising, the study said the practice of charging extra fees to check bags, upgrade to roomier seats and collect loyalty reward points, among other charges, has spread to nearly every carrier in the world.
One of the last holdouts, British Airways, began last year to charge a checked-bag fee for short-haul flights from Gatwick Airport. The fee generated $77 million in 2013, the study said.
But passenger frustration with fees may have finally forced some airlines to pull back on the charges.
One of the innovators of passenger fees, low-cost RyanAir from Ireland, recently lowered some charges to improve its penny-pinching image.
“They have had a change of heart,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany. “They realized they can make as much money without being annoying.”