Sarah Palin intervenes on behalf of Japan Airlines

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, fresh from her 15 minutes of election fame, is using her pull to help save some sectors of her state’s travel industry.

Specifically, Palin recently intervened on behalf of Japan Airlines, asking the US Dept. of Homeland Security to resume customs checks on winter flights from Japan to Fairbanks. Customs had said it did not have enough staff in Fairbanks to maintain a winter presence, which led DHS to deny landing rights to roughly 20 JAL flights.

Logistically, it’s a pain for US Customs and Border Protection to meet these flights; customs officers have to be flown from Anchorage to Fairbanks each time a JAL flight lands.

But these flights mean big business for Fairbanks’ economy: $4 million, according to some estimates.

After Palin intervened, DHS decided to reverse its decision.

“We recognized right away the importance,” Patricia Eckert, a trade specialist with the governor’s office, tells the Associated Press. “There is tremendous economic impact at a time of year when it’s most valued.”

JAL’s CEO takes bus to work and eats at the cafeteria (even when the press aren’t following him)

Every couple of days here in Minneapolis, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland is on the television telling the thousands on Northwest employees living in the Twin Cities not to worry about losing their jobs after the merger with Delta is completed. Judging by the number of strikes and employee complaints NW has experienced over the past few years, I’d say no one takes him too seriously. If you you headed a company that performed so poorly and you still made Steenland’s salary (before perks), you wouldn’t be worried about anything or anyone.

Perhaps top execs at US airlines could learn something from JAL CEO Haruka Nishimatsu. After major lay-offs three years ago, Nishimatsu cut all his perks and then slashed his salary. In 2007, he made $90,000. A tidy sum, but much less than many of JAL’s pilots make. He takes public transit to work and eats lunch next to the plebes in the cafeteria.

Perhaps you could chalk up Nishimatsu’s approach to cultural differences between the US and Japan. But his explanation of the rational behind cutting his own perks and salary makes perfect sense to me.

“We in Japan learned during the bubble economy that businesses who pursue money first fail. The business world has lost sight of this basic tenet of business ethics.”

Is this ethical approach working? JAL is faring reasonably well. Compared to US airlines, it is quite successful. So you can be ethical and successful? Amazing.

Airplane Exercises You Can Try at Home

One of the best plane trips we took when our daughter was small was a Japan Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan. Instead of letting you figure out what to do to amuse yourselves for the hours on end it takes to get across the Pacific, they help you out. We played Sky Bingo as part of the entertainment. Whoever wanted to play got a Bingo card and the numbers were shown on the big screen. (I think that’s how it worked.) I do remember that our daughter was given extra prizes just for being cute. I have no idea if Sky Bingo is still played, but it was a great idea, I thought.

Another fun thing was the exercises we were led through after we had whatever sleep we could snag. I loved the exercises. These were the kind you do in your seat, but meant to get your blood flowing and the kinks out. Here is a video I came across on You Tube of exercises being done on a plane you can even try at home. This is some Chinese flight, I assume. You can practice counting in Chinese while you watch.

Double Tall Skim Catpooccino To Go

If you’re a coffee lover, maybe you’ll want to make a special flight on Japan Airlines to buy “the rarest coffee in the world“: civet coffee. But this specialty brew is sold only in business class, to the tune of $600 for 100 grams.

You’re not going to find this in any Starbucks. Your other options for getting the coffee are limited: if you’re not heading to Japan, a single coffee shop in Vienna sells the beans. If you’re really adventurous, maybe you can sniff out the source directly: the Philippines. An environmentalist husband and wife team, named Reyes, has made a multi-million-dollar business out of its harvest. Non-coffee drinkers themselves, they accidentally stumbled into the civet’s special gift while doing conservation work on sugar palm trees outside of Manila in 2003.

What makes the coffee so rare? It’s made from the droppings of the civet cat. Apparently, this nocturnal, ferret-like cat eats sugar palm fruit and coffee cherries. (Oh, and you can catch SARS from it too.) The coffee bean is not digested, but ferments in its digestive system and is excreted, much to the delight of locals, who collect the ready-to-roast beans, but try to keep the origin secret. The roasted beans give off a “sweet chocolatey aroma” and produce a “strong and earthy” brew.

Ah, I can just imagine the aroma!