ELeather prides itself as a pioneer of engineered leather. Since 2007, it has been taking unused shavings and trimmings from leather hides and transforming them into a sustainable, advanced, engineered leather product. The company’s materials can be seen across several platforms, such as on trains and buses. When it comes to aircraft, it has worked with many of the industry’s major players, such as Wizz Air, Aeromexico, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines. Simple Flying had the opportunity to speak with Louise Gear, ELeather’s transportation department’s head of sales, about the firm’s sustainability efforts.
One of the key benefits of ELeather’s products is that there is a significant weight saving compared to standard leather. Ultimately, the seats have the look and feel of traditional leather. However, they have a high recycled leather content and much lower weight.
A primary factor that airlines are attracted to is sustainability. Gear states that because the company is using unused shavings and trimmings, it is essentially recycling.
Moreover, there are sustainable efforts across the whole process. The firm turns the trimmings into fibers, takes two webs of the fibers, and makes a sandwich with a material core. After that, just by using the pressure of water, it entangles the material together to give a substrate, which is essentially the engineered leather. Finally, the color coating or grain finish an airline wants is added on top.
Wizz Air was an early adopter of ELeather early last decade. The low-cost carrier was looking at how it could save weight. So, ELeather was able to help and work with the company along with its seat supplier at the time to meet their weight target. This move spurred a long-term relationship with the airline, and the pair are continuing to grow with each other.
This fall, it was announced that Wizz selected a new Recaro lightweight seat with recycled leather upholstery from ELeather to be installed in 2021. The agreement will see ELeather dress 32,000 seats across 146 new Airbus aircraft.
“Wizz Air, they have an ambition to reduce the impact on the environment. And on the back of that, they prioritize light-weight products. And from the start of our partnership with Wizz Air, ELeather has been able to help them with that. We are a light-weight material, so obviously, we’re delivering the weight saving, which saves them with cost; it saves them, obviously, with their carbon emissions. But then, also, in addition to that, we do have additional and strong sustainable credentials. We call it our kind of three pillars. We use recycled content, we have lower carbon emissions as part of our process, and we reduce the use of scarce resources. So the water that we use in our process is significantly less than traditional leather,” Gear told Simple Flying.
“The lighter weight reduces the overall weight in the cabin, which reduces the fuel-burn necessary, so there is a direct sort of correlation in saving for the airlines by choosing lighter-weight products. So they choose a lightweight seat. And obviously, in order to make sure the seat is as lightweight as possible, putting a lighter-weight seat cover material obviously helps with that whole process.”
Benefits across the board
Across the industry, airlines are working with ELeather amid sustainability goals. For instance, along with delivering a great passenger experience, Aeromexico wanted to reduce its carbon footprint, which is one of the key reasons it chose the firm.
There are also savings to be had when it comes to maintenance. Gear highlights how ELeather is easy to clean and durable. She states that it is “a wipe-clean product,” so there is no sort of dry-cleaning that needs to be done. Therefore, time is saved as there is not any ongoing maintenance.
Adapting to industry changes
It is well-publicized that the global health crisis is taking its toll on the aviation industry. There are several concerns from authorities and the public about travel amid the pandemic. Subsequently, many airlines have introduced robust hygiene measures across their services.
ELeather recognizes this mission. It emphasizes that a critical aspect is growing passenger confidence. It feels that airlines need to be able to show that they have a strong cleaning regime. Therefore, the company is updating and issuing new cleaning guidelines.
“What we’ve done over the last few months is, we’ve supported our customers by really doing a lot of additional testing of different cleaners and sanitizers that are out in the market and providing that information to give our customers the confidence that there’s a very wide range of materials that they can use to clean the covers,” Gear added.
“The other aspect that we are working on is looking at incorporating antimicrobial into our product, and I can say that we will very shortly be launching that. And that is a kind of direct influence of, obviously, what’s happened and the responses over the last few months.”
Altogether, ELeather values its long-term partnerships with its customers. As sustainability continues to play an important part in the initiatives of airlines, it can expect plenty of more long-lasting collaborations. Plenty of transitions are expected to happen this decade, and the company will continue to be part of the journey.
What are your thoughts about ELeather’s collaborations with airlines over the years? What do you make of its sustainability and saving initiatives? Let us know what you think of the projects in the comment section.