American Airlines Wins Just $1 From Sabre in 11-Year-Old Antitrust Case

Skift Take

The long-running case revolved around practices that the leading U.S. provider of airline fare data to travel agents imposes on nearly all airlines. If the verdict stands, it doesn’t make Sabre change, well, anything. Except maybe a smaller tip for a barista.

Airlines huffed at global distribution services companies like Sabre Corp. for decades. They puffed about how excessive fees and anti-competitive terms imposed by businesses that provide flight schedules, fare discount information, and booking services to travel agents were costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

And on Thursday, a federal court jury in Manhattan blew their house down, awarding American Airlines $1 after an 11-year lawsuit against Sabre, whose dominance of the U.S. market for flight data used by travel agents has been one of the industry’s longest-running melodramas. A nominal victory for American, the result finds that Sabre’s practices didn’t cause American any financial harm.

The dispute was over practices Sabre used to force airlines to use its services, and prevent carriers from reaching out to travel agents and business travelers more directly. Bolstered by a 5-4 2018 Supreme Court decision that made it harder for antitrust plaintiffs to win, Sabre’s effective victory assures that competition and the industry’s recovery from Covid-19, rather than litigation, will be the primary near-term threat to Sabre’s position.

A U.S. District Court jury returned the verdict after a three-week trial. American inherited the case when it acquired US Airways in 2013. US Airways had sued Sabre in 2011, arguing that practices such as forcing the airline to make all of its fares bookable through Sabre and barring the airline from charging travel agents a separate fee to cover Sabre’s service had cost it nearly $300 million. In 2010, US Airways reported a profit of $502 million on sales of $11.9 billion.

US Airways officially won one of its two antitrust claims in the case. But the tiny damages award showed the jury didn’t believe the airline suffered any harm.

“We believe the jury’s … award of $1 is commensurate with the evidence presented,” Sabre said in a statement released by its public relations firm.

In its own statement, American focused on the hope that the verdict might force Sabre to change its ways.

“We expect this decision to discourage further misconduct by Sabre and bring needed competition to airline distribution,” the company said. “The jury found that Sabre is a monopolist that abused its power.”

The distribution services — including Texas-based Sabre, as well as Amadeus in Madrid and UK-headquartered Travelport — have survived years of efforts by tech-driven interlopers and online travel agencies to dislodge them. Their tactics included some of the actions US Airways has complained about in the lawsuit, threatening to cut off airlines from access to travel agencies who use global distribution systems if they move too aggressively on direct sales.

The big fight between airlines and distribution systems has been over the corporate travel market. Big corporate agencies like American Express Global Business Travel use the distribution services to show all major airlines, and all of their sale fares, in a single search. And because the distribution services usually require airlines to list every fare in their system to be included at all, the services are very valuable to corporations that may need to send people to little-used destinations or to get them there at unusual times.

Airlines have been able to work around the distribution services when selling tickets through their own websites. Those sites can offer special deals not available through Sabre and companies like it. Online travel agencies, which vie with supplier sites for control of the leisure travel market, still use the middlemen in part Sabre pays them to do so, and airlines stopped paying online agencies commissions more than a decade ago. Online agencies and airline websites mostly serve leisure travelers, while corporate travel agencies like American Express Global Business Travel have backed Sabre and other distribution companies.

American Express declined to comment on the lawsuit on Thursday.

Changes in the industry since the case was filed make the verdict less significant, said Seth Borko, senior analyst at Skift Research. Distribution service fees now take up less than 5 percent of the cost of the average airline ticket, and Sabre said in its first-quarter conference call with stock analysts that its average fee in the first quarter was $5.28 per ticket. Plus fewer tickets are sold through the distribution services as airline Web sites have grown in importance.

American had won a $15 million verdict in a 2016 trial of the case that was overturned on appeal. That case found that Sabre’s practices had caused $5 million in damages, which are tripled under antitrust law to deter misconduct. An appellate court threw out that verdict, ordering the trial court to have a new trial that applied new antitrust standards the U.S. Supreme Court announced in a 2018 case involving credit card fees.

In the new trial, American had to prove that Sabre’s practices harmed consumers, and that competition couldn’t be protected in some less restrictive way. In the case that went to the Supreme Court, evidence that credit card use kept rising despite American Express’ high merchant fees prevented plaintiffs from showing that Amex’s fees harmed consumers and merchants. With airline profitability having boomed and travel having grown steadily between 2011 and the onset of the Covid pandemic, that was a difficult case to make.

The result is similar to a $1 verdict in 1986 against the National Football League, which officially lost an antitrust suit brought by the upstart US Football League, whose New York franchise was owned by a brash real estate developer named Donald Trump. The USFL went out of business after the case, having failed to win any order changing the older league’s anti-competitive behavior.

UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Sabre and American Airlines.

See below a copy of the jury sheet.

Source link

The case for dining solo on vacation

Placeholder while article actions load

Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s new series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

It’s no secret to those who know me: Food is a major source of personal happiness.

And there’s nothing quite as euphoric as enjoying the intricacies of a well-made dish in its motherland, like savoring a forkful of fresh pasta at an osteria in Italy or devouring a cut of meat at a ​​parrilla in Argentina. But because social conventions have taught us that dining out by yourself is not the norm, these moments are rarely experienced alone.

The beauty of a solo trip to Italy

The next time you’re with a dining companion, consider what might be different if you were a party of one. While breaking bread together has its benefits, only dining with others means you’re missing out on one of the greatest joys of travel — eating alone at a restaurant.

Dining alone allows you to go on a culinary journey, one that is often missed when engrossed in conversation.

This is especially true while traveling, when it is easy to get immersed in a semi-predictable dialogue at the dinner table. There’s the rehashing of the day’s events, discussing details of tomorrow’s itinerary and lamenting how sore your feet are from walking on cobblestones.

This isn’t a diss to your companion(s); it’s just the realities of traveling with someone else.

Eating by yourself provides an opportunity to hone in on details as they happen — all in real time. You will be more likely to notice the intricate font on the menu or the server’s delicate placement of the bread basket on the table.

All of the senses truly come to life. I’m imagining it right now, at one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. My nostrils inhale the aroma of onions slowly caramelizing, and my ears eavesdrop on the juicy conversation at the next table over.

And finally, there’s the dish itself taking center stage, more than ever before. You’ll notice a dish’s perfect presentation, like the single sprig of fresh rosemary atop a New Zealand rack of lamb. Or you taste the nuanced, layered flavors of a steaming bowl of pho at a street stall in Hanoi.

7 lessons from traveling solo through Japan

For many would-be solo travelers, there’s an intense fear of dining by yourself. And I get it. At some restaurants, I’ve tried making reservations for one only to be told that “we don’t do that.” And if you do get a table, your phone may end up being your companion.

If there’s one thing that eating alone at a restaurant has done, it is strengthening my will and desire to be more independent. I use those moments to observe everything and make my own decisions. And that same feeling can be so empowering for the rest of, well, life.

All I ask is that, if you do eat alone on your travels, put the phone down and look around. Talk to the waiter. Ask questions about the food and how the establishment came to be. Or if you’re feeling bold, comment on the dish at the table next to you.

Go ahead: Eat yourself happy on your next trip. And if you’re doing it alone, all the better.

Chris Dong is a freelance travel writer and credit card points expert based in New York City. He writes a weekly travel newsletter.

Source link

Case study: AJG | Business Travel News Europe

“Our business travel has returned with such vigour that our vendors are commenting that we will definitely meet and likely exceed our 2019 volume this year,” says Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. sourcing director Harriet Washburn.

The insurance and risk management broker never really put the kibosh on business travel during the pandemic. “We are a client-facing organisation, and we like to be in front of our clients,” says Washburn. “We like to prospect for new business.”

That said, volume definitely slowed at the height of Covid-19. AJG had a temporary stop when airlines sliced capacity and grounded planes. Like many companies, AJG loaded a lot of cancelled airfares onto UATP cards. After that point, the company elevated travel approvals to the SVP level, and distributed “all sorts of caveats and guidelines and cautions” to prepare employees who chose to travel but held back on any blanket halt on travel activity. Washburn said the company lifted trip approvals “several months ago” and the pent-up demand has sent levels through the roof.

“We exhausted the UATP funds right away,” says Washburn. “Our employees returned to travel with an alacrity that was astounding.” Including, she says, complex, multi-leg international trips with the support of risk management. “We haven’t had many problems.”

In growth mode
Is this kind of business travel trajectory unique to AJG? Not really. We spoke to a number of companies, often those that engaged in essential worker travel or businesses that actually boomed during the pandemic, where business travel never went into a deep hibernation. Patterns changed, precautions changed and approval levels changed, but business travel continued. As the pandemic mindset times out in these companies, business travel is gaining volume almost immediately.

T-Mobile is another company that let its business determine the level of travel during the pandemic, with precautions and elevated approval, but without a hard stop. Jennie Robertson took a travel manager role at the company during the pandemic and says the company has returned to near 100 per cent of pre-pandemic travel. But with a wrinkle: “T-Mobile acquired Sprint during that time,” she says, taking on their workers and travellers in the process and formulating travel volume around some new origin and destination cities like Kansas City and Frisco, Texas.

AJG has the same story, says Washburn, but on a global scale, extending points of sale to new markets in Europe and the Middle East as well as to Asia-Pacific.

“The most exciting news is the result of a very significant acquisition. We are in the process of launching new points of sale globally. And what I find intriguing is that the company from which people are joining us had halted all travel. There’s significant pent-up demand and as of the day these folks formally joined Gallagher, they were ready to book travel.”

Changing the programme?
Truth be told, the programme hasn’t changed that much for AJG, says Washburn. For T-Mobile, the pandemic ushered in a new TMC partnership thanks to consolidation, but policies and procedures haven’t been unrecognisably altered.

What has been different is how the company has sourced its programme and communicated with partners. Washburn cited a bigger reliance on chainwide agreements and allowing existing contracts to roll over into the next year. She also says her suppliers had been supportive of her business travellers’ needs – with airlines pooling funds to UATP cards and car rental partners finding cars amid shortages. AJG’s TMC, Egencia, rolled out some technology enhancements that facilitated better travel processes.

Asked whether she thought continuing to travel during the pandemic and staying close to customers gave AJG a competitive advantage over peer companies, Washburn demurred.

“I really wouldn’t want to comment, but I can say that we are told by our vendors that we have recovered, that we continue to travel more aggressively during the pandemic and that we are the first to rebound. So that’s really as far as I’d want to go on that. But you can impart from that what you wish.”

Source link

Orucase’s Axiom prototype is a light and foldable bike travel case

Orucase made a name for itself with cases designed to sneak past often-exorbitant airline fees related to bikes and/or oversized baggage. And while those cases are still available, Orucase has been experiencing increasing demand for a case that not only fits a mountain bike but also works with the latest crop of modern dropbar bikes with wholly integrated cabling. 

Meanwhile, making a case look less like a bike case is now less important given that Delta and more recently United have removed many of their fees related to bikes. Instead, those fees are now often hidden with a rather low weight allowance. 

Seeing these trends, the small team at Orucase has been busy designing a bike case that, from a distance, looks much like popular options from the likes of Evoc, Thule, and DB. However, upon closer inspection, the yet-to-be-finalised Orucase Axiom offers some truly clever solutions to common problems.

Note that the Axiom case photographed is an early (and rushed) prototype made in time for the Sea Otter Classic. A production version is still a number of months away. Please excuse any rough finishes or poor alignment you see; the displayed product was simply a proof of concept. 

A modular upper 

Like so many softshell cases on the market, the Axiom case features a rigid base, a soft upper, and a collapsible aluminium roll-cage to provide protection. Similarly, the case features axle mounts to secure the bike to the rigid base, while the bike’s wheels add further structure to the case and protection to the frame. 

The case will feature a collapsible aluminium roll cage for structure and protection.

With the exception of the Scicon AeroComfort 3.0 TSA and Evoc Road Bike Bag Pro, the vast majority of these cases require you to remove the handlebars from road bikes for storage – an emerging problem given how the cables on so many new bikes are hidden and prevent easy removal of the bars. To solve this, the Axiom features expanding panels (unzip to expand) in the soft case to allow room for the bars to sit attached.

The front of the bag can expand to fit the width of drop handlebars.

Orucase plans to protect the vulnerable handlebars and shifters with a semi-rigid wrap – not unlike the early iPad covers. Such a handlebar wrap could prove quite popular for use with other cases, too.

Further bike protection will come through the choice of either impact-resistant panels or a vastly lighter option of inflatable-panel walls. The idea of using air for protection isn’t a new idea – Biknd’s Helium has done as much for years, while Orucase takes a simpler, less integrated, approach. 

For the swimming pool or bike protection?

The Axiom case is also designed to fit mountain bikes, although the handlebars will need to come off for that. 

Easier storage 

Have you ever arrived at your destination to find that the case itself is in the way? I used to use a cardboard bike box for this very reason given the bike could go on a bike rack and the box could be flat-packed out of the way. Of course, this remains a benefit of soft bike bags, too. 

Orucase’s idea is to allow the rigid base to fold in half, with the rest of the case stored inside. Here, the bike case would transform into a rather small wheeled case that doesn’t take up significant room. The locking mechanism that keeps the rigid base rigid is still to be refined, but Orucase has some clear ideas on how to keep it easy and fast to use. 

The hard base folds in half for compact storage.

Orucase still has a number of things to work out, but the goal is to hit a 20 lb (9.1 kg) weight figure (padding included) while keeping the price under US$800. All up, the Axiom appears to be a travel case that answers a number of complaints I have with cases available today. Assuming it lives up to the claims, then consider me sold. The Axiom should be ready for pre-order in approximately two months.

Source link

Parents are passing out goodie bags on planes in case their kids are loud

Nicole Lindsay was steeling herself for her five-month-old baby’s first flight when she came across a viral — and ultimately divisive — trend: a care package for parents to hand out to fellow fliers, complete with earplugs, candy and an apologetic poem.

“Somehow my sleep-deprived brain was like, ‘That’s an excellent idea,’ ” said Lindsay, 37, who lived in England at the time of the flight eight years ago.

She assembled baggies for 30 or so of their closest seat neighbors, choosing Starburst candy to avoid potential allergens and printing out the poem, which rhymed words such as “sky” and “cry” and “fly.”

She said her seatmates laughed and assured her the preemptive move wasn’t necessary. Her son, Henry, didn’t end up crying at all, and both her kids have since proven to be good fliers.

“I think having apologized in the event he cried, it actually resulted in a lot of people saying what a good job he did at the end, which really felt nice as a mom,” said Lindsay, now a Florida resident. “The ice had been broken.”

Tips for flying with young kids

One of the earliest examples of an apology goodie bag going viral dates back 10 years. In 2012, a photo of the bags handed out by parents of 14-week-old twins made it to Reddit, where the post has been viewed more than 2.7 million times.

“We’ll try to be on our best behavior, but we’d like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt,” the note says. The message, accompanied by candy, offers earplugs at the parents’ seats. Commenters swooned: “Things like this restore my faith in humanity,” one said. “These parents need a trophy because THEY JUST WON!!” another wrote.

7 tips from parents on packing with kids

Baby’s-first-flight packages have made news over the years since. In the case of George and Amal Clooney, the actor and human rights attorney gave away noise-canceling headphones on a 2017 flight with a handwritten note: “Our twins just discovered squawking!! Hope this helps make the flight a little quieter.”

But for every story praising the gesture or parenting blog offering tips on in-flight handouts, there are hot takes against the practice. Vehemently. “Good Morning America” called the issue a “momtroversy,” while a PopSugar writer said that “Parents Who Give Out Goodie Bags on Flights Are Ruining It For the Rest of Us.”

Boston Globe columnist Christopher Muther wrote that the Clooneys’ gift “reinforced a dangerous trend.”

“Any adult who is truly angry that a baby is crying on a flight does not deserve a goodie bag,” Muther wrote. “They deserve a dirty look and maybe a stray service cart ice cube down their shirt.”

Even Pinterest, the home of DIY goodie bag examples, is divided, with multiple posts explaining why parents shouldn’t pass those bags out.

Creed Rykel Archibald, a high school English teacher and author in Salt Lake City, and his wife got individually packaged Mint Milano cookies and earplugs on the advice of a colleague’s wife before flying with their infant son to Maui last August.

But once they were on the plane, Archibald said, passing them out seemed too weird.

“It just felt so awkward, like, ‘Sorry that I reproduced,’” he said.

His son, Everett, was just 3½ months old and slept the whole flight. Archibald, 35, said he and his wife shared some of the cookies with an older woman who sat next to them.

“We ended up pretty much eating all the cookies ourselves,” he said. “The earplugs we still use sometimes.”

Still, Archibald said, he would not mind being on the receiving end of such an act: “If people give me snacks for any reason, I’m just going to be like, ‘Thank you.’”

How did clapping on planes become such a divisive issue?

When Joseph Eisenreich handed out Hershey’s Nuggets and a note of explanation about their 18-month-old twins on a flight to San Francisco, some passengers “looked at us like we were a little crazy,” the adjunct math professor said. Eisenreich, who lives in Columbia, S.C., was flying with an entourage: their husband, the twins and a friend who put the packages together.

But the general reaction to the peace offering was a giggle, they said. Twins Colette and Miryam fell asleep quickly.

“Giving someone something, from my vantage point, it was a great way to say, like, I am aware that I may be the cause of some discomfort for you and at the very least, I apologize,” said Eisenreich, 39. “I want you to know that I am aware of it.”

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach and a former flight attendant, said she has only seen an example of a plane goodie bag on Facebook. But, she said, the gesture fits her definition of etiquette: “knowing how to treat others and being mindful of how your behavior affects other people” — or how your children’s behavior might affect them.

Babies and young children don’t know how to adjust to pressure changes that can hurt their ears, and no one can guarantee how they will react to flying, she said.

Whitmore said the best thing parents can do is to prepare snacks, toys, games and anything else that might distract their child; walking up and down the aisle with the child when it’s clear is another solution for a little one who is antsy.

As for fellow passengers, they can ask a flight attendant if it’s possible to change seats in case of disruption — but preparation is also key.

“I would advise passengers to always fly with their own earplugs, because you just never know,” Whitmore said. “Being a good passenger means being prepared, and things are going to happen.”

Source link

In The Controlled Environment Agriculture World CleanGreens Argues For Aeoroponics Bernhard Baumgartner Makes The Case

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, March 20, 2022

All over the world there has been a focus on indoor agriculture. Billions and billions of Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen and other currencies have poured into these projects. With a focus on local, with a hat tip to the idea of super productive and high yield agriculture and a yearning for a roster of social, economic, marketing and culinary benefits, the industry has boomed.

No less a produce stalwart than Driscoll’s just announced its own engagement with Plenty to grow strawberries on an indoor vertical farm. There are many others.

So far, though, profits, and a reasonable return on investment,  have been elusive. The same oil prices that favor local, also can increase heating costs. The willingness of Wall Street to fund these projects has led to a boom. The next step remains uncertain.

CleanGreens Solution SA is taking a fresh approach to agriculture that not only is technologically advanced but that also addresses the simple desire of consumers to purchase healthy produce grown close to home. Bernhard Baumgartner, commercial director at CleanGreens, is working to give consumers just that. After working in businesses that had interests in renewable energy and sustainability, and doing consulting work as well, he returned to the agricultural world with CleanGreens, and this time is on the cutting edge of innovation with aeroponics. We asked Steven Loeb, a contributing editor at Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS, to find out more.

Bernhard Baumgartner

Commercial Director

CleanGreens Solution

Molondin, Vaud


Q: What is your background and what is it that brought you to CleanGreens Solutions?

A: I grew up on a farm in France, so I always had the proximity with the agricultural world. Nevertheless I studied business and started working in the renewable energy industry and then in consulting before looping back into the sustainability sector with CleanGreens during the COVID crisis. I was already working in a startup/scaleup but in the service industry and wanted to have a closer relationship with a product and, more importantly, with a useful product. At the same time CleanGreens wanted to accelerate commercial development, so it was good timing.

Q: Before you joined CleanGreens, what kind of interest did you have regarding the agriculture sector and the food business?

A: I really wanted to go back to my roots, no pun intended, but with a link with innovation and startups. CleanGreens was a perfect match as it’s a Swiss company with a unique system and an ambition to change the way of producing vegetables worldwide. That international ambition appealed to me and was, for me, the main driver to join the team.

Q: Can you detail how CleanGreens aeroponic system functions?

A: Aeroponic technology is an extension of hydroponic technology. Instead of having the roots bathing in a gutter or a basin, they are hanging in the air and are sprayed with a nutritive cloud. This allows better oxygenation of the roots and healthier plants. The roots then absorb the water and nutrients that they need. The rest falls down due to gravity and goes back into our system. It’s cleaned and recharged with nutrients and resprayed until it’s absorbed. This closed loop system allows us to produce one kilogram of lettuce with just 5 liters of water, which is about 40 times lower than traditional field growing. The products are growing on crop modules, and they travel through the greenhouse. The seeds are planted in a processing area, then the plants grow in a greenhouse bay. Once they are fully grown, they go back to the processing area for harvesting, and then either for cleaning and replanting or for a second cut if it’s aromatic herbs. We have a unique combination of using the aeroponic technology in a greenhouse setting, one that is quite unique in the competitive landscape. We’re able to leverage this superior aeroponic technology and the efficiency of greenhouses in order to drive down the price of the final product.

Q: What did you start growing and is that the same today or are you producing more crops?

A: The original crop targeted by CleanGreens was lettuce and, more particularly, large heads, as our industrial partner, Les Crudettes, is a big processor in France, and its interest was to have as much volume as possible. The economics being harder on the lettuce side, we’re focusing today on aromatic herbs: basil, mint, chives, coriander…but in our R&D plant in Switzerland, we tested over 1,000 varieties to see what works well and what does not.”

Q: CleanGreens is using a mobile aeroponic system, so how does that work?

A: Every greenhouse bay is equipped with a robot with spraying nozzles, this robot is laser guided and drives up and down the bay at regular intervals according to the needs of the plants.

Q: Why not simply build fixed systems?

A: In an aeroponic system, it can happen that nozzles get clogged. It takes time to identify and repair them. The mobility part of the system allows us to reduce the number of spraying nozzles and thus decrease CapEx while also decreasing failure chances and maintenance cost and time on the OpEx side. Plus the robots can be easily extracted from below the crop modules for maintenance and checks.

Q: Why is your aeroponic system superior to vertical farming and traditional hydroponics?

A: That’s my favorite question, when looking at a system our clients look at three things: cost, as CaEX and OpEx, yield, which multiplied by selling cost gives you turnover, and quality, as aesthetics, nutritional value and taste. They quickly eliminate vertical farming as the costs are through the roof. Then the comparison with hydroponics gets interesting. Our yields are generally 30% to 50% higher as our roots get more oxygen and our plants can grow quicker and bigger. We reach yields of 950 tons per hectare for lettuce and around 400 tons per hectare for most herbs. The aeroponic system also allows us to keep the crunchiness of the leaves, as they never touch water, and decreases the phyto-sanitary risk. In our system the risk of contamination is very low as the water isn’t exposed to sunlight and, even then, the risk of cross contamination is even lower as the roots are not interconnected and the water is purified at every loop. On the quality aspects, whenever we invite industry experts or when we have chefs or blind tastings organized, our products are systematically rated higher than the average.

Q: Where was CleanGreans’ aeroponic system first installed and how has the company’s operations expanded since?

A: The first system installed was in Switzerland in the town of Molondin. That’s where we perfected the system and made our first crop tests. Then we installed our first full length production lines in France with our industrial partner Les Crudettes before continuing with more lines in Switzerland with Jeremy Blondin from the Domaine des Mattines who is a visionary in the horticulture world in Switzerland. That gave us a good foundation to test the system and get customer feedback on the quality but also allowed us to validate our yields.

The next steps are even more interesting, through a partnership we’re installing a 6,000 square meter system in Kuwait, and we’ll continue to develop in that area, and we’re also installing a 7,000 square meter system still with our industrial partner in France.

Q: What is CleanGreens doing about bringing its aeroponic system to the United Kingdom?

A: The U.K, is an interesting market for indoor farming for several reasons: The main one is the isolation and the high imports. In 2020, the U.K. produced 107,000 tons of lettuce and the country imported 243,000 tons and exported 6,000 tons. It means an import to consumption ratio of 71%. That’s a lot of trucks coming from different European countries to transport a product that is voluminous, light, fragile and supposed to be fresh. From an environmental point of view, it doesn’t make sense especially knowing that they are mostly produced in the south of Spain where water is not the most abundant resource. On top of that, you have the COVID crisis that puts a strain on the movements of goods and people, and many U.K. vegetable producers had to leave the products rot in the field in 2020. And again on top of that, you have consumers who want to eat local, clean products at a reasonable price. The equation only adds up if you are able to mass produce locally all year long, and our system is doing exactly that.

Q: What advantages does CleanGreens aeroponic system offer to the U.K. market?

A: The food independence factor will grow increasingly important especially in the light of recent events. Our system is also solving the CO2 aspect while bringing quality products to the consumers at market price.

Q: What consumer needs and preference does your company address that might not be as readily addressed otherwise?

A: Mainly the freshness and quality of the products. It’s already starting to be addressed by other actors in the market with different vertical farming companies, but they are limited to growing a certain number of niche products sold to a certain number of niche customers who can afford it. Our system is allowing us to not only focus on niche products but also to make things available to the masses.

Q: How do you communicate the advantages of CleanGreens to the U.K. agricultural sector and, ultimately, to the consumer?

A: We’re unlike many other companies in the sector. We often hear of competitors who have a higher marketing than R&D budget. Which is complete nonsense. We’re a Swiss company, and we have a majority of engineers, so that should tell you something about how keen we were on marketing in the early years. We really wanted to make the system right in order not to sell a promise that we couldn’t deliver. We’re now building up our marketing and sales teams to have a better presence, both digitally and in person at events like the London Produce Show, and through Swiss governmental bodies who support us in our internationalization diplomatic channels. So expect to see and hear a lot more from us in the future.

Q: How much more will consumers pay for produce products grown without pesticides and other agricultural chemicals?

A: There is no definitive consensus on this topic. Research by Deloitte in Switzerland showed that 43% of consumers are willing to pay over 30% more for sustainable products, but, on the other hand, it’s hard to convince a retailer to pay more than a 20% premium. So I think we would have to settle on this for now. The good news is that through innovation, industrialization and mass production, we’re able to decrease the costs of our system so we’ll soon be able to produce at the same cost as imported products. This is for lettuce, for herbs, we’re already able to produce in the U.K. at a cheaper cost than imported products.

Q: Do you think consumers will be willing to pay more for such produce products in the future?

A: In the short term, yes, in the future they won’t have to.

Q: Will the CleanGreens aeroponic system be able to grow more varieties of produce in the future?

A: That is clearly an important aspect of things for us and our future expansion. Today, we’re very good on leafy greens but that only represents a small part of the consumption of the clients and in a large scope a small part of the calorie intake of the general population. The leafy green part is just the first step for us, if we take a reducing world hunger approach, we will have to do much more. Next steps is the production of berries, which for us will entail a complete redesign of the system, but that’s on our R&D roadmap.

Q: Can you scale CleanGreens’ aeroponic system to bring costs and, as a consequence, end prices down further in the future?

A: Indeed, the system is organized around a process area where the seeding, transplanting and harvesting occurs. Next to that, the number of greenhouse bays, thus the number of production lines used for the growing of produce, is really scalable. Of course, the higher the number of production lines, the more the costs are optimized and the lower the final price for the consumer. Cumulating innovations, industrialization and larger production, we managed to decrease our CapEx by double digit figures in the last few years. We’ll keep that trend in the foreseeable future in order to be able to enter new markets where the economics aren’t certain yet.

Q: What do you feel is the best case for the CleanGreens aeroponic system now and in the future as the market and your business evolve?

A: The indoor growing market has evolved a lot in the past few years. A few actors managed to raise the attention of some large funds and attracted a lot of capital to finance their growth, especially in the U.S.A.. Now the sector is consolidating and investors look at projects that can have a return on investment in less than six years. That’s a chance for a company like CleanGreens, as we had this focus in the entire development of the system. In operational terms, it will mean continuing development in the Middle East, entering new markets in Europe, mostly in the Northern part, and exploring the North America market through strategic partnerships. The best case scenario is to be able to have CleanGreens teams in these three regions so that we can address these markets locally as they can have different constraints and drivers.


The whole indoor agriculture movement is clearly the hottest thing in produce right now. With strawberries the newest focus for growth in these facilities.

Everyone in the business is looking at these systems. Growing with salt water, in shipping containers, aeroponic, Hydroponic, on top of Supermarkets and Vertical operations.

Come to The London Produce show and Conference and let us explore this field and the CleanGreens organization. Geta sneak peak at what just may be the produce industry of tomorrow! You can register, for free, right here.

Still a few last minute opportunities to sponsor or exhibit available, Ask for info right here.

Join us at excel in London as we help define the future of the fresh produce industry!







Source link

Covid Live Updates: Latest News, Case Counts and Mandates

Credit…Leigh Vogel for The New York Times

The White House said Tuesday that with no new coronavirus funding on the horizon, it was already scaling back plans to purchase monoclonal antibody medicines to prevent and treat Covid-19 and will stop reimbursing medical providers who provide Covid care for the uninsured in early April unless more money is approved.

While senior administration officials made an appeal for $22.5 billion in additional federal funding, prospects for an emergency aid package appeared dim on Capitol Hill. The No. 2 Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, said a bill to provide the money would be “a much heavier lift” if the administration did not come up with ways to offset the cost.

Republican senators, who are demanding a better accounting of how the Biden administration has already spent hundreds of billions in pandemic aid, are digging in. They want it to be paid for by repurposing funds from other programs.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the top Republican on the committee that controls health spending, said he spoke to Jeffrey D. Zients, President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, on Tuesday about the impasse. Like many other Republican senators, he said he supported buying more therapeutics, tests and vaccines — but with a catch.

“My advice to them is be as transparent as you can possibly be with what money’s left and where it would be spent, if it’s spent the way it was designated, and how much money you need, and how long that will last,” Mr. Blunt said.

Senior administration officials, speaking on a conference call with reporters, repeated their initial request for the full $22.5 billion in new money. The amount was slashed by Congress to $15.6 billion, but even that is now hanging in the balance. Lawmakers stripped Covid relief funding out of the spending bill they passed last week because of a dispute over whether $7 billion of the money should come from funds allocated to the states.

On the same day that the administration renewed its push for more funds, a Senate panel voted to create an independent commission to investigate the causes of the pandemic and the federal response. It is part of a broad pandemic package that the panel voted to send to the full chamber.

With coronavirus cases rising in parts of Europe, some Asian countries experiencing severe outbreaks, and public health experts warning of the possibility of another variant or a summer or fall surge in the United States, the Biden administration is increasingly worried that without more money, it will be caught unprepared.

President Biden’s new coronavirus response plan, outlined earlier this month, included plans to secure more antiviral pills; to build up testing capacity; and to accelerate development of the next generation of vaccines, with the hope that one might protect against multiple variants. Without funding from Congress, officials warned, those plans are in jeopardy.

White House officials have repeatedly said they were out of money for vaccines, testing and treatment. On Tuesday’s call, administration officials, who declined to be identified by name, offered more specifics than in the past. They said the administration wanted to place new orders for monoclonal antibody treatments — including Evusheld, a drug authorized to protect high-risk American from Covid-19 — by the end of March, but would be unable to do so without additional funding.

The federal government has been purchasing the treatments from manufacturers and providing them to the public free of charge. But in order to keep the treatments free for as long as possible, senior officials said, the administration expects to cut back on the quantities shipped to states beginning next week.

On Capitol Hill, the fate of the Covid relief bill is unclear. House Democrats discussed bringing the measure to the floor for a vote this week, but it was unclear whether they would do so if the measure were not guaranteed to pass the Senate.

House Democrats initially thought they had addressed Republicans’ objections by taking money from other programs to offset the $15.6 billion, including $7 billion from relief funds allocated to the states. But governors balked at that, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to withdraw the Covid funding from the $1.5 trillion comprehensive spending package that was approved last week.

Source link

Bringing it together – a case study

THE Swiss bank UBS has a very mature travel programme with online booking in place for almost 15 years. Kevin Carr, the bank’s corporate travel manager, said the company implemented a new online booking tool five years ago, with Amadeus’ Cytric.

With the implementation, UBS moved away from different tools in different regions. “Prior to the current partnership, we had different tools in each region, but we decided that we wanted to globalise as there are lots of benefits around having global servicing standards,” he told BTN Europe.

While Cytric is UBS’s online booking tool from global distribution player Amadeus, the bank contracts directly with Travelport as its GDS and American Express Global Business Travel as its travel management company, which typically works with Sabre.

“It is ultimately about owning the relationship,” says Carr. “If you have a decent-sized programme you want to be influencing the partner. You don’t want the TMC to be driving that partnership and development falling onto the TMC’s roadmap. You want to be influencing the provider and prioritising your strategy.”

Do you find the best TMC and best OBT and try to work them together or find the partnerships which might have some compromises or less content but is a better connection? “We have always worked at having the best in the market for that service and forcing them to work together,” he said.

Carr also points out that it is clear that certain OBTs and TMCs work better together, despite most TMCs saying they work with every tool in the market.

“This idea of being agnostic is a bit of nonsense really,” he said. “Ultimately, we all know there are always complications and you do lose certain functionality and features if not using the right GDS, TMC or OBT.”


With many vested interests in the market – preferred supplier deals can distort what TMCs offer and even what consultants suggest – so buyers have to rely on other more independent sources. A good place to start is in your personal network of buyers or through association networks like  ITM or GBTA, he suggested.

Carr said, “Travel is inherently complicated because of the various commercial models, and you never know who gets what from whom.”

He recommended for those not in the position to contract directly, identifying the content and functionality that is a must-have for the corporate is vital since sometimes the ultimate choice will involve compromise.

“It is all about understanding what the needs of the programme are – the destinations and markets you want to cover,” said Carr.

He added, “Rail as a specific category has become much more important because of sustainability. Whereas it might not have mattered previously if you didn’t have rail in some countries, now we are very concerned to have it.”

In this case, the content requirement has made choosing an OBT provider slightly easier. “Everyone has GDS,, HRS and Expedia but not everybody has got rail,” Carr said.

Source link

Beijing reports first local omicron case ahead of Olympics – KXAN Austin

FILE – A woman wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19 walks past a clock counting down the time until the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. Beijing has reported its first local omicron infection, according to state media, weeks before the Olympic Winter Games is due to start. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

HONG KONG (AP) — Beijing has reported its first local omicron infection, according to state media, weeks before the Winter Olympic Games are due to start.

The infected person lives and works in the city’s northwestern district of Haidian and had no travel history outside of Beijing for the past two weeks. The individual experienced symptoms on Thursday and was tested on Friday for COVID-19, officials said in a news conference Saturday during which they confirmed the infection.

The infection comes less than three weeks before the Winter Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on Feb 4., and around two weeks before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations in China.

So far, multiple cities in China have reported omicron infections, including Shanghai, the western city of Xi’an, cities in southern Guangdong province such as Zhuhai and Zhongshan, and the city of Tianjin, which is 30 minutes from Beijing by high-speed rail.

Officials across the country have urged residents to stay in their cities for the new year, instead of traveling back to their hometowns. China has adopted a strict “zero-Covid” policy, with authorities locking down residential compounds and even entire cities such as Xi’an when a local outbreak has been discovered in an effort to stamp out community transmission.

The Beijing patient’s residential compound and workplace have been sealed off and authorities are mass-testing people linked to either location for the coronavirus. Some 2,430 people had been tested as of Saturday night, according to The Global Times, a state-owned newspaper.

China reported 119 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, of which 65 were domestic cases. The country has reported 104,864 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.

Source link