Weekend what we’re reading: Solar-powered ski lift, cleaner airplane toilets, Southwest: top airline for customer service

Photo courtesy Tenna

This weekend we look at a new solar-powered skilift in Switzerland, read about employee suggestions about keeping airplane toilets clean that saved millions and Southwest tops a survey of airlines for customer service.

Solar-power lift midst cow barns and chalets

Tiny Tenna, Switerland, nestled in the mountains between Chur and the Via Mala in the canton of Graubünden has erected one of the first solar-powered ski lifts. Theirs is unique with solar panels lining the liftline. And, knowing the mountain roads and steep terrain in this part of Switzerland, I’m not sure that tourists winding along the mountain roads won’t end up using more energy getting to the resort than the resort saves on the solar-powered lift.

With a mere 112 inhabitants, Tenna is an agricultural village that relies only on solar and hydroelectricity for energy. In the past two years, the number of solar panels in the town has more than doubled, occupying almost every rooftop and cow barn around. So, when it came time to restore the town’s old ski lift, solar power made the most sense.

The lift, which they began building in December 2009 and started operating on Dec. 17, 2011, extends 1,640 feet up the mountain and is expected to produce more than 90,000 kilowatts per year. On sunny days, the lift produces more energy than it consumes, according to Montalta. Clean energy, however, isn’t cheap; it cost about $1.5 million to build the green endeavor. Tenna will be able to use the stored energy for other means and is hoping the lift brings more skiers and tourists to the region.

Cleaner toilets help save BA £20m

When British Airways asked their workers about how the airline might save fuel to save money the executives were astounded with hundreds of fuel-saving ideas that have meant more than $31 million in savings to the airline’s bottom line.

More than 200 fuel-saving ideas were submitted by pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground staff.

Some of the more unusual suggestions included replacing glass wine bottles with plastic, reducing the amount of water carried onboard, and descaling toilet pipes on Boeing 747 and 777s. The latter suggestion saved £600,000 as a result of reduced weight – and also improved the performance of the toilets.

The airline has also employed more conventional methods such as reducing the use of auxiliary power units, single engine taxiing and performance improvement packages on more than 40 777s. In total the savings were worth over £20 million.

Southwest And AirTran are top airlines in customer experience ratings, according to new Temkin Group research

Southwest was rated at the top of the airlines for customer service in the Temkin Group survey that assesses customer service at more than 200 companies.

The Temkin Experience Ratings evaluates three dimensions of customer experience:

    Functional: Does the company meet consumers’ needs?
    Accessible: How easy is it for consumers to do what they are trying to do?
    Emotional: How do consumers feel about their interactions with companies?

The overall airline industry, on average, earned the 12th spot out of 18 industries.

The research, which is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers in January 2012, includes nine airlines. Southwest Airlines earned the top spot in the industry and received the only “good” rating. AirTran Airways was ranked second in the industry and earned a rating of “okay” along with JetBlue Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The remaining five airlines earned poor ratings, with US Airways and American Airlines at the bottom.