Tuesday 22 January 2019

World's first plastic-free flight takes off - but will other airlines follow suit?

Portugal's Hi Fly aims to be completely 'plastic-free' by the end of 2019, our Travel Editor reports

On board Hi Fly's 'plastic-free' flight
On board Hi Fly's 'plastic-free' flight
Hi Fly's plastic-free flight
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

The war against plastic got a significant gift this Christmas - the world's first passenger flight without a single-use plastic item on board.

Portuguese carrier Hi Fly operated the pioneering ‘plastics-free’ flight, on an Airbus A340 jetting between Lisbon and Natal in Brazil on December 26th.

The flight was the first of four such trials over the holiday period, carrying a total of over 700 passengers between them.

“This historic Hi Fly flight, without any single-use plastic items on board, underlines our commitment to making Hi Fly the world’s first ‘plastics-free’ airline within 12 months," said its President, Paulo Mirpuri.

“We take that commitment very seriously."

The airline is not the first to pledge to tackle a growing plastics problem - though its timeline is certainly one of the most ambitious.

Last year, Ryanair announced a five-year plan to eliminate all non-recyclable plastics from its operations, switching to wooden cutlery, biodegradable coffee cups and removing plastics "from our range of in-flight products” by 2023.

Other airlines, such as Aer Lingus, BA, Emirates and Norwegian, have talked up the efficiency of their fleets and a general commitment to green initiatives and recycling, though none has offered a solid timeline for the removal of in-flight plastics.

BA is “working to reduce our use of plastic”, for example, and says it cut waste by 50pc per passenger on short-haul flights in 2017.

Airlines' in-flight services are notoriously full of plastic, however, from coffee cups and plastic packaging to straws, drink stirrers and blanket and headphone packaging. Few have promised to completely eradicate such materials.

Globally, less than 30pc of plastics are recycled, according to the European Commission, and over 100,000 flights take off each day around the world, contributing to huge amounts of single-use plastic waste.

Onboard its Lisbon to Natal flights, Hi Fly replaced cups, spoons, sick bags, packaging for bedding, dishes, soft drink bottles and toothbrushes with alternatives like bamboo cutlery, paper packaging, and compostable containers, it says.

Each flight saved on some 350kg of single-use plastics, it claims.

Hi Fly is a widebody wet lease specialist offering Airbus A320, A330, A340 and A380 aircraft to airlines when they need additional capacity to cover their needs.

The plastic-free trial flights were chartered by Brazilian tour operator Alto Astral.

“Everyone at Alto Astral is excited to be involved in this adventure and we believe that future generations will thank those of us who have been prepared to stand up to try to make a difference now," said Pedro Ramos, the company's Director-General.

Hi Fly hopes to make its entire fleet plastics free by the end of 2019.

Read more:

Cruise line Hurtigruten to abolish all single-use plastics by July

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