With Uncollected Taxes and Fees, Airlines Should Help UNICEF
Two reports on NPR this morning set up a great opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.
There was this story: the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing to the air transport industry for free or heavily discounted cargo space to help transport emergency nutritional supplies to the Horn of Africa, where hundreds of thousands of children may die of malnutrition within weeks without relief.
UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says the agency has more than 5,000 tons of food in warehouses in Belgium, France, and Italy – enough to feed 300,000 malnourished children in drought-ravaged Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia.
“A cargo jumbo jet, for instance costs about $350,000 to transport 100 metric tons of therapeutic food from France to Nairobi,” said Mercado. “That cost is pretty much equivalent of the cost of the cargo itself. The other alternative is via sea and we are setting up a pipeline for doing this. But, we have a six-week gap, which means that we need to transport 400 metric tons per week via air.”
Quick math: to move six weeks of food into Africa to help hundreds of thousands of children, UNICEF needs $8.5 million. That’s peanuts. But this is part of a larger effort.
The funding situation for humanitarian operations for the Horn of Africa is dire. OCHA reports the U.N.’s Drought Appeal is only 44 percent funded. It says $1.4 billion more is urgently required.
UNICEF is asking for $314 million as its part of this consolidated appeal. To date, the agency has received about one-third of this sum, which it says is far too little to do what needs to be done.
UNICEF spokeswoman Mercado says over the past week, British Airways, Lufthansa, UPS, Virgin and Cargo Luxos have offered to transport some of the emergency supplies to Nairobi free of charge for a limited period of time.
She says she hopes these offers will inspire other airlines to step forward.
This couldn’t be easier.
The other story I noted this morning was about the FAA. Congress failed to extend FAA’s authorization before recessing this week, which meant that the government didn’t collect fees on airline tickets and caused a partial shutdown of the agency, stopping the work of some 74,000 government and contractor employees. Airlines, however, did not reduce ticket prices; they kept prices the same by raising their fares, pocketing the difference.
The addition to airlines’ bottom lines: on average, about $30 million per day. In two weeks, that’s $420 million of profit to the airline industry; they could fully fund the shortfall in the U.N.’s consolidated appeal of $314 million. At a bare minimum one airline should step up and cover the cost of any food airlift – it’s less than a single day’s worth of the industry’s uncollected taxes and fees.
It would be nice to see something good come out of this.