Container ships steer toward longer route around Cape of Good Hope to avoid Suez Canal

Dive Brief:

  • Multiple container ships are rerouting to the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the logjam created by the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal, according to carriers and the ship tracking service Marine Traffic.
  • HMM Rotterdam, Ever Greet, Pan Americas and the Hyundai Prestige have all begun the journey toward the southern part of Africa, a spokesperson for Marine Traffic told Supply Chain Dive.

  • A service alert from Hapag-Lloyd said HMM Dublin, HMM Stockholm, ONE Munchen, ONE Marvel and YM Wellhead have rerouted via Cape of Good Hope. An HMM spokesperson confirmed the diversion of Hyundai Prestige, HMM Rotterdam, HMM Dublin and HMM Stockholm.

Dive Insight:

As the blockage of the Suez Canal stretches into its third day, carriers are having to think hard about their options: Sit and wait for the canal to open for traffic, or reroute ships around the southern tip of Africa.

The Suez Canal is one of the most important trade arteries in the world, connecting Asia to Europe and the U.S. East Coast. In 2019, 18,800 ships crossed through the canal, according to the Suez Canal Authority.

As of Friday afternoon Central European Time, vessels with capacity totaling 727,764 TEU were affected by the blockage, according to data from project44.

“Another attempt to re-float the vessel earlier today, 26 March 2021, was not successful,” BSM, the technical manager for Ever Given, said in a notice.

Marine Traffic


“She may have been grounded on much more than the immediate banks of the canal,” Chief Shipping Analyst at BIMCO Peter Sand said in an email Friday, referring to the Ever Given. “The more shallow water she is stuck on the longer it will take. Weeks is an option.”

Sand said LNG carriers and bulkers carrying grains out of the U.S. have also rerouted around Africa on their way to Asia.

Carriers that have yet to divert any vessels said they are considering the possibility.

“Hapag-Lloyd constantly monitors the situation and closely follows the implications on its services,” the carrier said in a service alert Friday. “We are presently looking into possible vessel diversions around Cape of Good Hope.”

Cape of Good Hope route increases trip distance

Distance in miles

Making the decision to reroute vessels isn’t easy for carriers, as the trip takes longer, resulting in extended transit times under normal circumstances for shippers and forwarders.

The trip from the Persian Gulf to Port of Rotterdam takes nearly 18 days via the Suez and more than 31 days via the Cape of Good Hope for a ship traveling at 15 knots, according to a 2019 paper in the Journal of Marine Engineering & Technology. But modern container ships commonly travel at faster speeds of up to 22.5 knots, according to another paper published last year.

While the trip is longer, it can actually be cheaper for carriers depending on the price of fuel because of the fees associated with traversing the Suez Canal. Last year, some carriers were already making the switch to the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the cost of crossing the canal, which can be $700,000 for a fully loaded 20,000 TEU ship, according to The Loadstar.

In the short term, experts have suggested that the blockage of the Suez could allow ports to work through their existing backlog. But when the canal opens, a large number of ships could show up within a short period of time, creating congestion issues at European ports, experts told Supply Chain Dive.

Some shippers that have not yet loaded their cargo are already looking at rail as a potential alternative, Florian Braun, Flexport’s head of ocean for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said earlier this week.

The logjam could also result in an uptick in blank sailings. Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaIntelligence Consulting, said in a LinkedIn post that the blockage means shippers should prepare for an “increase of de-facto blank sailings.”

“I think it can be comparable to what happened last year when the COVID outbreak happened and carriers blanked a lot of sailings” because factories in Asia closed, Braun said Thursday. “And you can compare that now to 100% capacity reduction because the Suez Canal is blocked.”

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Recent Jobs Report Is Good News for Travel Industry

The latest jobs report is giving those in the travel industry hope. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. added 916,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate dropped to six percent.

The leisure and hospitality sector gained 280,000 jobs in the month of March; however, there is still a long way to go. The industry’s unemployment rate is far higher than the nation overall at 13 percent.


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The U.S. Travel Association noted that these recent numbers are a good sign for travel and those who work in leisure and hospitality.

“The rise in leisure and hospitality jobs is a clear sign that an increase in travel and related activities corresponds to an increase in jobs, so maintaining employment growth will depend upon the broad restart of travel, particularly as vaccinations increase and health safeguards remain in place across the travel industry,” said U.S. Travel’s president and CEO Roger Dow. “It is important, however, to keep in mind that leisure and hospitality jobs account for almost 40 percent of all the U.S. jobs lost in 2020, so we are still way behind in terms of a recovery.”

LendingTree’s chief economist, Tendayi Kapfidze, noted that the vaccine is vital to perpetuating this upward trend.

“Looking ahead, the evolution of the labor market is tied intricately to the vaccine rollout and the trend in new COVID cases and deaths,” said Kapfidze. “Enabling increased travel this spring and summer will be vital to this industry’s recovery and the economy as a whole.”

Additionally, Dow further highlighted the devastation that the travel industry has suffered over the last year and encouraged Americans to get vaccinated in order to travel more safely and freely.

“The year-long halt on travel has devastated U.S. employment, with travel-supported jobs accounting for 65 percent of all U.S. jobs lost last year, and this is an opportunity to begin reclaiming a lot of what’s been lost,” said Dow. “The travel industry’s mantra throughout the pandemic has been to be guided by the science, which clearly shows that now is the right time for this move. Meanwhile, it remains important that all eligible Americans get vaccinated as soon as they can in order to more quickly recover the ability for all to travel freely.”

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Easter around the world: Good eats from Switzerland’s chocolate bunnies to Bermuda’s hot cross buns, Travel News & Top Stories

GENEVA – Easter signifies sacrifice and fresh beginnings filled with hope.

Growing up in Australia, Easter was a religious holiday with visits to church and also a fun time with Easter Sunday feasting and Easter egg hunts.

With travel restrictions still in place, this year feels like an even more important time to take stock of one’s health and bask in Easter cheer.

After all, this time of the year marks the beginning of spring when life is renewed.

One also takes pleasure in cakes and good eats to end the sacrifice of Lent.

This year, walking around modest Swiss villages, I encounter distinctive Easter activities.

In my home town of Nyon, fountains are decorated by local school children whereas along Lake Geneva, I see trees festooned with hard-boiled eggs that are dyed and beautifully decorated.

As I sit in my tiny apartment waiting for the world to open up, I think about other Easter traditions that make the world a more vivid place to live in.

With its optimistic spirit, Easter is a good time to anticipate better days after the pandemic.


No meal in Sweden is complete without pickled fish and potatoes, so for Easter, Swedish families enjoy the same dishes as an elaborate smorgasbord.

Traditional dishes include pickled herring, cured salmon and also Jansson’s Temptation, which is potato, onion and pickled anchovies baked in cream. The meal is enjoyed with shots of alcohol (schnapps), which are spiced with seasonal ingredients.

The Swedes also enjoy paskmust, a dark-brown soft drink infused with spices and malt extract.

Egg-cellent tip: Children may not be able to indulge in schnapps and spiced lager, but they do take centre stage during Easter and dress up as Easter witches (paskkarring) who ask friendly neighbours for candy in exchange for handmade Easter letters.



Throughout Latin America, Easter is a time to cleanse the soul and be rid of evil.

On Holy Saturday, re-enactments of events such as the burning of the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus and the resurrection of Christ take place, with passionate performances by kids in many villages.

The largest theatrical play is in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. More than 5,000 people take part in this play that dates back to 1843.

Food plays a huge role during the two-week Easter celebrations. Fish replaces red meat, with fish soup and lima beans (pipian) being a popular dish.

Also well-loved is a bread-and-butter pudding made with dried fruit and a creamy custard (capirotada). The sweet symbolises crucifixion, with cinnamon sticks forming a cross.

Egg-cellent tip: Aguas frescas, which is a zesty and fruity tamarind mocktail, is served on the streets during the warm Easter days.


Italian traditional Easter cake colomba di pasqua. PHOTO: TIRI BAKERY IN ITALY

The architectural wonders of cathedrals in both cities and villages form the perfect backdrop for Easter celebrations.

I remember being in Tuscany during Easter and not being able to enjoy one of its greatest dishes, wild boar, because it was Good Friday.

But this is also the best time to enjoy a traditional Easter cake called colomba di pasqua. Shaped like a dove – the bird which flew to the Biblical character Noah after a global flood, with an olive branch in its beak – the cake is similar to the Christmas panettone studded with candied fruit and almonds.

Egg-cellent tip: Enjoy Italy’s best colomba from Tiri Bakery. It is created with a 60-year-old recipe in the region of Basilicata, where the Cathedral of San Gerardo stands.



Eggs symbolise new life and in the tiny south-western village of Bessieres, people gather with huge paddles in the early morning to cook an omelette with more than 15,000 eggs, a dozen chefs at the helm. In my favourite region, Alsace, Easter markets sell chocolate and gingerbread sweets. For lunch on Easter Sunday, an Easter pate (pate de paques berrichon, right) is served alongside spring lamb.

Egg-cellent tip: For dessert, the French go for either a buttery brioche (mouna) or a “little bird’s nest” cake made of chocolate (petit nids de paques), which I enjoy.



The lively people of Bermuda celebrate Easter on the beach.

The Sargasso Sea, with its sandy pink beaches and blue waves, is a lovely place to gather on Good Friday and fly kites.

The Bermuda kites are structured with a cross, while their flight represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

After all the fun, families go home and feast on hot cross buns – and these are my favourite when lightly toasted and served with lashings of butter.

Egg-cellent tip: Try another Easter speciality – cod fish cakes.



With 26 cantons in Switzerland, there are myriad Easter traditions to be savoured.

Easter brunch on Sunday after church includes zopf, a buttery brioche usually formed in a twisted braid, but appears as a bunny during Easter. This is served alongside cheese and sausages.

Easter in this chocolate-loving country is extra indulgent with chocolate bunnies. The Swiss queue up at their favourite chocolatiers for marzipan-filled bunnies.

Egg-cellent tip: Ski resorts were the only destinations open during the pandemic and locals – and future tourists – will no doubt travel to Zermatt, where the ski season extends into summer.

•Based in Geneva, the Australia-born writer is the author of Chefs Collective and writes on food, wine and travel.

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It might be a good time to use flight credits: Travel Weekly

Flight credits issued during the Covid-19 pandemic have begun to expire on Frontier Airlines. And the first expirations of Delta credits will come next month.

But while Covid-era credits on other U.S. carriers don’t begin expiring until at least July, and in most cases much later than that, potential travelers might want to consider putting those credits to work now, before ticket prices make an anticipated leap and airlines reinstate some change fees or basic economy ticket restrictions.

“If you’re thinking about travel this year, it’s a good time to put them to use,” said Daniel Burnham, an analyst for the bargain-flight-alerting service Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Put the voucher toward an itinerary.”

On Frontier, credits issued during the pandemic are valid for bookings made within one year after the original itinerary was canceled. That means customers who canceled flights when the pandemic hit are now having unused credits expire.

Delta, meanwhile, extended credits for tickets booked by April 17 of last year for travel through the end of 2022. But credits for tickets issued beginning April 18 of last year will expire one year after the purchase date.

The first pandemic-era credit expirations on Alaska will occur on July 5, followed by Southwest on Sept. 8 and Spirit at the end of that month. For the five remaining large mainline U.S. carriers, the first such expirations don’t commence until next year. 

Despite such leeway, now is a good time to begin putting credits to use for those who are comfortable flying, including the newly vaccinated. Airfares in February were down 25.6% year over year. But with travel demand increasing, fares are likely to rise in the coming months. The travel booking platform Hopper projects that the price of bargain fares, which it defines as those that are less than 90% of the fare quotes it tracks, will be 34% higher this July than in July 2020 and 36% higher this August than in August 2020.

Meanwhile, at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference on March 15, various carriers predicted that ticket prices should rise as traffic and load factors increase. On March 21, more than 1.5 million people passed through TSA airport security checkpoints for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The planned resumption of change fees by discount airlines as well as the resumption by full-service carriers of policies prohibiting itinerary changes by basic economy ticket holders are additional incentives to make use of credits now. Barring a late extension of Covid-19 policies, discount carriers Frontier and Spirit will resume charging change fees on most bookings beginning April 1. JetBlue will also implement a $100 change fee on April 1 for most basic economy itineraries and a $200 change for basic economy South American bookings.

Seven of the 10 primary U.S. airlines are slated to resume either change fees or prohibitions on basic-economy itinerary changes.


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Meanwhile, on March 31 Delta will revert to its pre-pandemic policy of not allowing changes for basic economy bookings. For bookings beginning April 1, United, Alaska and Hawaiian will once again prohibit basic economy itinerary changes. American will do the same for itineraries within North America and the Caribbean.

American and Hawaiian, however, have said that they will accommodate changes for customers with Covid-19 or Covid-like symptoms.

As of press time, airlines planned to move forward with the reimplementation of change fees or basic economy itinerary change prohibitions, though analyst Bob Mann of R.W. Mann & Co. wasn’t sure such policies would stick, especially if spring break leads to a Covid-19 infection rate surge.

“Airlines need advance bookings to generate working capital, and reimposing change fees will frustrate advance bookings by those who are on the fence, uncertain about taking the risk,” Mann said.

Meanwhile, Burnham said that those who are not ready to travel any time soon should stay on top of when their flight credits on various airlines will expire.

“I would say, make a spreadsheet with your confirmation number, the quantity of money that you’re owed with these airlines, the expiration dates and put that with your financial documents,” he said. 

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Membership Pro Tip: Good Morning, Foresters!: Associations Now

By / Mar 24, 2021
(behindlens/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A successful way to engage members virtually has an early wake-up call, but it’s worth it.

How does it work?

 Association of Consulting Foresters members are independent consultants who work with private landowners across the country—and they start work very early in the morning. In a survey, members revealed that the membership benefit they value most is networking, so ACF developed “Good Morning, Foresters: Coffee, Consultants & Conversation.”

The early-morning sessions are hosted on Zoom, which is more conducive to member engagement and interaction than some educational platforms the group uses for webinars, says Lucy Firebaugh, ACF’s communications and membership specialist.

ACF encourages members bring a cup of coffee or their favorite morning beverage, and the membership team opens the session to whatever members want to talk about. They limit the sessions to 20 people to allow for an easier flow of conversation.

Why is it effective?

ACF’s largest networking event is its annual national conference, which was cancelled because of the pandemic. “We wanted to create an alternative solution for members to still receive the networking opportunities they crave and look forward to every year,” Firebaugh says.

The feedback has been “wonderful” so far. Members enjoy the informal opportunities to talk with colleagues and “not have to stress or be prepared for an educational webinar,” she says.

What’s the benefit?

Although most members would prefer to network in person, some members aren’t able to travel to in-person events. “Virtual sessions like ‘Good Morning, Foresters’ have been a great solution for them to still receive those networking opportunities,” Firebaugh says. “Even once life gets back to ‘normal,’ we are planning to still provide these virtual sessions to hopefully increase the overall value of our members’ favored benefit.”

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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How to make sure your camping gear is good to go

Gary Garth
 |  Special to USA TODAY


While the country slowly emerges from coronavirus quarantine, few are more anxious to be unleashed back into the wild than America’s campers.

Be it a carry-everything-on-your-back backpacking trek, a car camping journey to a favored state park campsite or making camp via a creature-comfort loaded recreational vehicle, camping is one of the most popular summertime recreational activities in the U.S. and beyond.

According to the 2018 KOA North American Camping Report, the United States is home to 78.8 million camping households, an increase of 7.2 million since 2014.

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the unofficial start of the summer camping season. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the havoc it has wrought worldwide, camping is likelier to be more popular this summer than any in recent memory. Some campground facilities, be it local, state, federal or privately managed properties, will be operating on a limit basis. Others will be running at full throttle. Some will likely remain closed.

Camping situation report

Nebraska State Parks, for example, recently announced that beginning on May 20, “guests may begin enjoying recreational vehicle camping at select state park areas where social distancing and group-size recommendations can be maintained to help ensure compliance with the state’s public health directives amid the COVID-19 health situation.”

You’ll need an RV because lodges and group shelters will be closed at least through the end of May and park shower houses and modern restrooms will not be open “until further notice.” Campsites will also be spaced a minimum of 25 feet apart, which will result in some sites being closed.

In neighboring South Dakota, most state park campgrounds have remained open and many were planning to reopen restrooms and other facilities by the Memorial Day holiday. Reservations can be made at

Access to the country’s national parks – popular camping destinations for many – is loosening but facilities are far from fully accessible. Find out more, including a link to check an individual park’s accessibility and operating schedule, at

Access to Army Corps of Engineer campground properties is also in flux. Many have been closed or restricted. Expect openings to be staggered or piecemeal. 

As the access situation remains fluid, check before you travel and if your camping destination accepts reservations – and many do, make one. 

Wherever you plan to camp, be sure to check the facility’s COVID-19 page so you know what the restroom situation is and you are fully up to speed on its social-distancing practices and other policies related to the virus. 

Get that gear in good shape before you head out

Before you go, check, and if needed, repair or upgrade your gear, recommends Iris Diligencia, lead repair shop technician for Mountain Safety Research, the venerable Seattle–based outdoor gear company.

“Because you depend on your gear for warmth, comfort and safety, using the pre-season to perform basic maintenance on it will pay dividends in not only equipment lifespan,” Diligencia said, “but also your enjoyment in the backcountry.”


If you’re a tent camper, like I am, pitch your tent in the backyard, sweep out the inside and, if needed, scrub the outside with soap and water. Check the seams for loose threads or tears, repair if needed, and add a coat of seam sealer (available from most online outdoor retailers).

Do a similar inspection and repair of your rain fly, the waterproof outer layer of your tent. And don’t overlook tent stakes and guidelines, shock cords and poles for damage. Repair or replace as needed. You can usually buy replacement parts from your tent manufacturer and outdoor retailers like REI sell nonspecific items like stakes and shock cord.

Instructions and tips on repairing/replacing damaged shock cords and poles can be found on MSR’s YouTube channel.

“Check the quantity and conditions of your tent stakes, too,” Diligencia said. “It never hurts to pack a few extra. Nothing is worse than arriving at your campsite only to find your shelter is missing a few necessary pieces.”  

Cooking equipment

If you use a canister-powered stove, it’s likely that no maintenance will be needed, Diligencia noted, although it’s still a good idea to test the stove before heading into the field.

Liquid-fuel stoves, like the MSR WhisperLite and others, require occasional cleaning and maintenance to keep the fuel flowing smoothly and the flame burning efficiently. Check the wick and O-ring seals and use fresh fuel for the year’s first trip. Keep fuel canisters filled. If you need propane, you can usually find it at retailers like Home Depot or a local supplier.

Never cleaned a stove or replaced the fuel tank? As is the case with pretty much any task under the sun, you can find instructions on YouTube. Most stove manufacturers, including MSR, also provide helpful how-to, step-by-step videos on maintaining their equipment.

Sleeping gear

Air out sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Spot clean with soap and water where needed. If a thorough cleaning is needed, check and follow the bag’s washing instructions. Finish by turning the bag inside out and laying it under the sun to dry.

“Direct sunlight will help kill any lingering bacteria,” Diligencia said.

First-aid kits

Your first aid kit should include a fresh supply of insect repellent, bandages and ointments. Check expiration dates on any prescription and over-the-counter meds.

If you wear glasses, consider keeping a spare pair in your first-aid kit or another easy-to-find spot where they won’t get broken.


If you neglected to remove the batteries from headlamps and flashlights after last year’s camping season, check for corrosion. If you find any, it can sometimes be cleaned with white vinegar. Replace batteries and check that lights are in working order.

Backpacks and equipment bags

Most campers have a bag or pack that holds their gear. It’s also a place where grime collects. Empty it. Scrub with soap and water and hang to dry. Check zippers, seams, webbing and bungee cords and repair where needed. Apply zipper lube. (Chapstick will also work for this purpose.)

Love campground cooking? Add these  items to your collection

If you like to cook over an open campfire, the Outpost belongs in your camp bag. It’s a three-piece (grill plate, post and anchor point) campfire cooking system that’s well made of heavy-duty stainless steel. Takes about two minutes to set up and is easily adjustable, surprisingly sturdy and available in two sizes (19-inch and 24-inch). The Kettle Hook accessory (sold separately or packaged with the Outpost) will hold a Dutch oven or a ham. Includes carrying bag. Made in Pennsylvania.

The Takibi Fire & Grill is another well-made, smartly designed, stainless steel item for open-flame enthusiasts that is suitable for backyard or backcountry use. It includes a pack-and-carry fireplace, baseplate, grill bridge, grill net and carrying bag. The 31-pound kit folds flat and sets up in seconds. The fireplace coal bed accessory  allows the Takibi to be used with charcoal. The pack-and- carry fireplace, which  is available in three sizes and can be purchased separately, would be more travel-friendly in a backcountry camp.

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Lobo men are playing spoilers, and not in a good way » Albuquerque Journal

Let’s try this again.

For the second time in the past three weeks, the UNM Lobos are in Fort Collins expecting to play a game against the Colorado State Rams.

Only this time, the Lobos (6-14, 2-14 Mountain West) are riding out the stretch with a coach who announced his resignation on Friday, and the title-hopeful Rams are more than a little upset with decisions the Mountain West has made about which games are being made up this week and which ones are not.

For the Rams (16-4, 14-3 MWC), a team currently tied for first place in the standings and firmly on most everyone’s NCAA Tournament “bubble” with an NET rating of 40, the two UNM games they missed Feb. 9 and 11 turned into one makeup game (Wednesday in Fort Collins). Meanwhile, the two games the Lobos chose not to play against San Diego State (19-4, 13-3) on Feb. 3 and 5 will not be made up and were deemed by the league to count as “forfeits” only if they would affect conference tournament seedings or the regular season champion.

Well, fast forward to this final week on the schedule before next week’s MWC tournament, and SDSU and CSU are tied. The Aztecs play at UNLV on Wednesday and the Rams follow the UNM game with a road trip to Nevada on Friday.

If both win out, SDSU will be 14-3 and CSU will be 15-3 — but SDSU will be champion because the two SDSU-UNM games that weren’t played will boost them to 16-3, which doesn’t sit well with the Rams.


“I can go on the record and say I don’t think that’s fair,” said CSU coach Niko Medved, whose Rams are also upset they’re playing four games in a seven-day stretch before the league tournament. “… I mean, I know that this year has been a little bit crazy but if we’re talking about being fair, I don’t believe that that’s fair.”

He also said none of it matters if his team doesn’t take care of business and win. Fellow NCAA Tournament bubble team Boise State knows that all too well after a Tuesday night home loss to Fresno State in which the Broncos were 13.5-point favorites.

CSU Athletic Director Joe Parker, also smarting after he learned Monday night the league decided to send his first-place women’s team to Albuquerque to play the second place Lobos in the Pit with a league title on the line, took to Twitter early Tuesday morning expressing frustration with the league and fellow athletic directors about what is happening to his teams.

As for the men, the Feb., 9 game against the Lobos was called off after an 11th-hour decision from Larimer County (Colo.) health officials that led to the teams being pulled off the court 30 minutes before tip-off, though nobody on the Lobos travel party had tested positive for COVID-19 (an assistant coach had come in contact with somebody who was positive three days prior to the game, so the postponement was precautionary).

The Lobos, meanwhile, haven’t had players or coaches talk to media since last week’s loss at Air Force and will be playing their first game since the Friday resignation of head coach Paul Weir, who will remain as the coach through next week’s tournament.

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Turning Travel Banks Into Good Works

Like many organizations with managed travel programs, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation amid the Covid-19 pandemic found itself with an excess of unused air tickets far outweighing its travel needs for the foreseeable future. Asking for refunds, however, didn’t seem to fit the spirit of partnership the foundation wanted with its suppliers, as they dealt with their own financial difficulties, including layoffs and furloughs, said senior manager of global travel Stephen Gheerow.

“We thought about how it impacts us from a financial perspective, and it was money we had already budgeted and spent,” said Gheerow. “We didn’t want to go back to our partners and say, ‘Give us the money,’ because that would impact their financials as well.”

Working with supplier partners, Gheerow and his team were able to convert those unused tickets into charitable donations to four organizations aligning with its mission.

In all, the foundation has donated about $140,000 in unused tickets divided evenly across four organizations to use for their own travel needs. Unused Delta Air Lines funds went to three organizations: Feeding America, a nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks across the United States; GLAAD, a media advocacy group that promotes understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ community; and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, an Atlanta museum dedicated to the achievements of both the U.S. civil rights movement as well as global human rights movements. Unused American Airlines funds went to Cool Effect, an organization that supports projects to reduce carbon pollution and counteract climate change.

“We thought about our culture as an organization, what we stand for and the work we do, and we went to our partners and asked to take those funds to donate to like-minded organizations that aligned with our cultural values,” Gheerow said.

This is not a heavy lift on resources, so it’s not something out of reach for most organizations that have these types of tickets in their banks.”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Stephen Gheerow

Making it Happen

The foundation first brought its idea to Delta, with which it had the largest volume of unused tickets, to vet it and make sure it was feasible, Gheerow said. As an additional appeal, the foundation intended to select as beneficiaries organizations that shared Delta’s values as well as the foundation’s. Delta indicated it was behind the idea “100 percent,” Gheerow said.

“It was very easy for us,” said Scott Santoro, Delta VP for Los Angeles and Western sales. “The team had a good idea, and these are partnerships that have the same values as Delta.”

With Delta eagerly on board, Gheerow then sought the internal buy-in necessary for the project to move forward, starting with his own travel team.

The finance and budget team was another key partner, as Gheerow wanted to be sure that the funds being donated were not accounted for in the current year’s budget. As it turned out, as the tickets already had been expensed, the finance team considered it money spent, so there was no issue there.

The foundation’s legal team was important to ensure the legality and associated liability around the donations as well as tax implications, he said. 

Gheerow consulted with the foundation’s communications group, too. “They had a lot of questions, as they wanted to run it internally and see if it aligned with any existing work and also make sure this initiative spoke to our organization’s culture,” he said. That in turn helped prepare for future internal communications around the project and, eventually, external communications, as they expected suppliers would be excited to share the story with the public.

The foundation’s travel management company, CWT, also was a crucial partner, Gheerow said.

“They would be tasked with running reports and gathering information to make sure tickets were still valid, because so much was still fluid at the beginning of 2020,” he said. “Then, you also have domestic versus international, rules regarding use and validity of nonrefundable tickets and a lot of nuances in the mix. CWT helped us navigate that piece.”

For the donation, Delta waived all associated fees, such as name change fees, and the funds were given to the charity on Universal Air Travel Plan cards. UATP has facilitated charitable donations for decades, so it was simple to facilitate, UATP president and CEO Ralph Kaiser said.

With the Delta donation in place, the foundation was ready to expand on the project, Gheerow said. The team decided to focus on domestic carriers, as the bulk of its nonrefundable ticket volume was on them, and American was the next to come to the table.

The environment is a big focus area for the foundation—it made carbon offsets a part of its airline contracts a few years ago—so the team wanted the next donation to be for an environmental organization. American had an established partnership with Cool Effect, so it was a natural choice, Gheerow said. Like Delta, American was thrilled to work with the foundation on the donation, said Kyle Mabry, who recently was promoted to VP of global sales for the carrier.

“The heroes here are really the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but we’re happy to be playing a supporting role in what they are doing and facilitate this generous donation,” Mabry said.

We go to the projects, review them, talk to the locals, talk to the management team and check on the secondary benefits and science. … This is where the unused tickets are going to be a huge advantage for us.”

Cool Effect’s Jodi Manning

Making a Difference

Part of the vetting process in choosing the recipient organizations was confirming that they had essential travel needs, Gheerow said. As such, the donation of flight credits has the same impact as a direct cash donation, as the organizations can redirect funds they had set aside to pay for travel to instead go directly to the work they do.

“We did not get into any deep dives and stipulate how they would spend the UATP dollars, but we vetted to know they had both travel needs and a managed travel program, and that the funds would be put to use,” he said.

For Cool Effect, the funds are solving some immediate needs, said Jodi Manning, the organization’s VP and director of marketing and partnerships. Cool Effect aims to support projects that are of the highest quality, and in order to ensure that, it conducts annual site visits to review its projects, she said.

“We want to make sure both the buyer and the seller understand what is being paid and who is getting the money,” Manning said. “We go to the projects, review them, talk to the locals, talk to the management team and check on the secondary benefits and science. We have a whole team that does that work, and this is where the unused tickets are going to be a huge advantage for us.”

In particular, one project is working to restore 157,000 hectares of peat swamp ecosystem in Indonesia. The work provides clean water, prevents peat fires and preserves the habitat for the endangered Bornean orangutan and proboscis monkey, according to Cool Effect.

The organization had been planning its annual visit to that project when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, and it will be the first that they visit once travel resumes, Manning said.

Making it Grow

As more companies over the past year have renewed social responsibility commitments amid the pandemic and social justice movements across the United States this past summer, unused tickets could be a simple source to fulfill those commitments.

The foundation already is not alone in its efforts. Deloitte recently announced it would be donating about $1 million in its unused balances across multiple airlines both to help frontline workers reach Covid-19 hotspots and to facilitate transportation of medical suppliers and protective equipment. This includes $90,000 in unused American Airlines credits to Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that taps military veterans to lead disaster relief efforts.

UATP’s Kaiser said that there a billions of dollars remaining in unused tickets floating about. The network is available to facilitate regardless of the original form of payment or whether a carrier is a UATP issuer, he said.

Both American’s Mabry and Delta’s Santoro said they are seeing increasing interest in donations from clients, and thanks to early adopters like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the framework is in place. “As a result of this idea, we’ve given every sales representative the ability to use it at this moment in time,” Santoro said.

Gheerow also had approached his other major domestic carriers regarding the donations idea, and while they were not able to facilitate them at that time, they were cooperative in working with the foundation on its unused funds, and at least one of them has since put a donation program in place.

Gheerow said he’d like to see it extend beyond the pandemic, as even before the myriad Covid-19 cancellations, it was fairly typical for companies to end the year with some balance of unused tickets. The U.S. carriers during the pandemic have permanently ended most change fees, which also will make it easier going forward.

Although the foundation at its heart is a charitable organization, the unused ticket donation boils down to the equivalent of about a $140,000 charitable donation, Gheerow said.

“This is not millions of dollars in donations and is not a heavy lift on resources, so it’s not something out of reach for most organizations that have these types of tickets in their banks,” he said. “Maybe this could be a template moving forward.” 

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