Airlines Operating Plastic-Free Flights Are On The Rise

Etihad Airways and Hi Fly have both operated single use plastic free flights. On these types of flights, airlines use no single use plastic at all, which is great news for the environment. Nonetheless, such a flight also poses some unique challenges for the airline operating it.

Etihad Boeing 787
Etihad operated a flight without any single-use plastics. Photo: Etihad Airways.

Etihad’s plastic-free flight

UAE’s second-largest airline Etihad did something very special to honor Earth Day. The airline operated its first flight free of single-use plastics. Flight EY484 departed Abu Dhabi on April 21st and arrived in Brisbane, Australia on April 22nd. April 22nd is officially known as Earth Day.

Etihad Aviation Group’s Chairman stated that the airline’s plastic-free flight, “is an extension of Etihad’s pioneering environmental efforts. Inaugurating 2019 with the locally sourced biofuel flight and the operation of the longest single-use plastic free flight are testament to our commitment to leading effective change towards sustainability.”

As a matter of fact, Etihad is planning on reducing its use of single-use plastics by 80 percent by the end of 2022.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787
Etihad operated its Earth Day flight on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Etihad Airways.

As we all know, airlines rely heavily on single use plastics. In fact, Etihad uses over 95 disposable plastic products in its aircraft cabins. Accordingly, the airline had to find quite a few sustainable replacements options. So, what did Etihad do?

Basically, the airline tried to find eco-friendly alternatives whenever possible. For example, Etihad replaced plastic coffee cups with edible coffee cups made out of natural grain products and plastic cutlery with recyclable stainless-steel cutlery. Nonetheless, the airline was not able to find an acceptable alternative for some items, such as mouthwash and shaving kits. Consequently, these items were simply not available on their plastic free flight.

In the end, all the efforts paid off. Etihad was able to eliminate over 50 kilograms of single-use plastic waste on just one flight.

Hi Fly’s plastic-free flight

As reported by Simple Flying, Portugal’s Hi Fly operated a flight without single use plastics last December. Indeed, Hi Fly was the first airline ever to operate a plastic-free flight.

Hi Fly Airbus A340
Hi Fly’s Airbus A340 was the first aircraft to be operated on a plastic-free flight. Photo: Wikimedia.

Hi Fly successfully replaced items such as cups, spoons, dishes, toothbrushes, and soft drink bottles with sustainable alternatives on its flight from Portugal to Brazil. For instance, the airline provided bamboo cutlery and plates. Even though Hi Fly considered the items made from bamboo a viable alternative, Etihad did not want to use them. According to Etihad, they did not provide a pleasant dining experience.

Hi Fly’s goal is to go plastic-free on all flights by the end of this year.

How do you feel about single use plastic free flights? Do you think they are a good idea?

1 comment
  1. Simplicity and convenience have led us (read businesses like airlines) to our pre-wrapped, throw-away culture. Personally, I’d prefer metal knives and forks, real glass etc, even when flying economy. Even if not provided, reusable plastic (e.g. melamine) are available.

    And what real difference does it make if it puts a couple of extra $, £, € when, in reality, that’s in most cases far less than 1% of the ticket price.

    If we want responsible travel (and lots of other things, e.g. coffee shops, supermarket goods, etc) let’s accept the need to pay a small fraction more.

    Airlines that show good environmental credentials are part of my who-to-choose checklist.

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