At Virgin Atlantic we pride ourselves on the top quality experience we offer our passengers. That’s underpinned by building sustainability into the onboard experience. For example, the weight of our planes – and what’s onboard – directly impacts our fuel burn and hence our carbon emissions. So when we recently fitted the interiors of the first of our new A330 aircraft, the lighter airframe, monuments, seats and galleys allowed us to deliver an overall weight saving of 1.3 tonnes per aircraft. We’ve also successfully reduced the amount (and therefore weight) of potable water we carry on our aircraft by 25%, without compromising on passenger comfort or safety.
We’ve also been busy looking at clever design, more sustainable materials and improved lifecycle of the products used to serve our new in-flight meal services. It’s a win-win for us and the environment as using fewer materials means less weight, less fuel burned, and less CO2 emitted. For example, we’ve reduced the weight of our meal trays, containers, chinaware, glassware and cutlery – even the humble teaspoon hasn’t been overlooked.
With the help of specialist agency Giraffe, we’ve also changed some of the materials to more sustainable equivalents. For example – and here’s the science bit – some of the lids for passengers’ meal dishes have been changed from PET (PolyEthylene Terephtalate) to recycled PET, and the acrylic tray changed from acrylic to ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which are respectively about 65% and 46% more greenhouse gas efficient than those they replaced.
Combined, the new in-flight meal services have delivered an average weight saving of 129kg per aircraft. This equates to a potential fuel saving of 762 tonnes (2,400 tonnes of CO2) a year.
After months of hard work in research and design, we were also delighted to unveil our new amenity kits in September 2012. The new kits will offer our passengers useful items for whilst they’re travelling as well as to take away afterwards.
In Upper Class and Premium Economy, the kits are made from rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), a sustainable material made from recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are sterilised clean, dried and crushed into small chips. These chips are heated until they can be wound up like yarn thread. The fibres are drawn into smooth strings and then go through a crimping machine to give the polyester yarns a fluffy woolly texture.
The material is used to produce our kits in dark grey with a stylish black cherry or silver silk lining to match our colour schemes. They’re branded from the inside only to encourage passengers to reuse them after leaving the aircraft as the Upper Class kit doubles up as a stylish tablet or e-reader case on outbound flights, or a travel wallet on inbound flights. The Premium Economy kit also doubles up as a handy travel wallet. The clear plastic kit in Economy is also reusable and recyclable.
Any unused amenity kits will be collected for re-use, while the contents of any that have been opened are recycled by innovative recycling partner MNH Sustainable Cabin Services. The Virgin Atlantic team worked closely with MNH to ensure the new kits were designed to be as recyclable as possible. Last year MNH helped Virgin Atlantic divert nearly 700 tonnes of cabin waste from landfill by reconditioning and recycling a range of items including amenity kits, headsets and pillows.
Read what Paul Sands, our Head of Customer Experience has to say about the new amenity kits here.
For more information about our wider sustainability programme ‘Change is in the Air’ read our sustainability reports here.