In a global first for the airline industry, and a defining moment for the sustainability of the planet, the first-ever jet-age passenger flight with not a single-use plastic item on board has been made by wet-lease carrier Hi Fly.
The ‘plastics-free’ trial, involving four flights by Hi Fly’s wide-body Airbus A340, 9H-SUN, had its first flight run on December 26th, when it took off from Lisbon on its way to Natal in Brazil. Over 700 passengers took part in the trial. These plastics-free test flights are just the beginning. Hi Fly plans to make its entire fleet ‘plastics free’ by the end of 2019.
Among the scores of single-use plastic items that have been replaced are: cups, spoons, salt and pepper shakers, sick bags, packaging for bedding, dishes, individual butter pots, soft drink bottles and toothbrushes. In addition, among the many innovations presented to passengers on the flight, by the Hi Fly environmental experts, will be bamboo cutlery, an array of paper packaging, and containers that, once used, can be readily composted.
Commenting ahead of the take-off, Hi Fly President Paulo Mirpuri said:
“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. We take that commitment very seriously. We are obviously excited and delighted that Hi Fly will be the first airline to attempt such a feat. Our corporate mission is based around sustainability and we work hand in glove with the Mirpuri Foundation to make sure that our corporate practices match our wider responsibilities to the planet. The test flights will prevent around 350 KG of single-use, virtually indestructible plastics from poisoning our environment.”
“Over 100,000 flights take off each day around the world and, last year, commercial aircraft carried nearly four billion passengers. This number is expected to double again in less than 20 years. So, the potential to make a difference here is clearly enormous. The test flights will help us trial the many substitute items we have developed and introduced them, in a real-world environment. We know we may encounter some initial teething problems, but we are confident of addressing these over the coming months. We know, too, from the feedback we have received from client airlines and passengers, that it’s the right thing for the airline to be doing.”
And now, a few statements from passengers and crew regarding what they had to say about the flights…
Hi Fly Passenger Fabiano Silva, who was en route to surprise her daughter Mariana in Brazil for the New Year said:
“It’s a noble initiative and one I think people would always support. I am happy to play my part. Plastic pollution needs to be addressed. My daughter will be delighted to hear that I was on the first ever flight in the world to take off without plastic.”
Rodrigo Santos, who was hoping to enjoy a few days relaxing in Natal over the holiday period with wife Ines, agreed:
“It’s an important initiative for us and for the environment, I think it’s great that a Portuguese company is taking a lead here. It’s all been very smooth, the crew are excellent and we are happy to be a part of building a better future.”
Pedro Ramos, the Director-General of Tour Operator Alto Astral, the client for this Hi Fly flights, also hailed the experiment a great success:
“It was a great experience to be involved in. And the feedback from our passengers has been entirely positive. We salute our friends at Hi Fly and we are delighted to have been involved in what will be a historical moment.”
The total weight of plastic saved across the whole trial – 4400 passengers on 16 flights between Portugal and Brazil – was 1500 kg.
4 flights 100% single-use plastic free
- 700 passengers participated in the experience
- 350 kg of plastic saved
- 500 gr of plastic saved per passenger
- Destinations: Lisbon and Natal
12 flights with significant plastic reduction
- 3700 passengers participated in the experience
- 1150 kg of plastic saved
- 300 gr of plastic saved per passenger
- Destinations: Lisbon, Oporto, Fortaleza, Recife, Maceió and Salvador
What they did with waste and used items after the flight:
- After the flights, excess food waste and packaging were collected and delivered to a licensed waste management operator where they were processed for energy production.
- Bamboo cutlery was sanitized by Hi Fly’s catering arm LSKY to be reused.
- Glass bottles were returned to the supplier to be cleaned and re-filled.
- Card and paper were grouped for collection and recycling.
Hi Fly President Paulo Mirpuri told assembled media agencies after the trial period:
“We are delighted that the test flights went so well. Seeing the reaction from passengers, full of smiles, and happy, even proud to be involved, only confirms to us that this is the right direction for us. Our target of being plastic free by the end of the year seemed ambitious to many in our industry, but by believing in our project and working hard to make it happen, we can see that it is entirely achievable and our focus now will be to commit to our deadline.”
Pedro Ramos, the Director-General of Tour operator Alto Astral, the company who chartered the flights between Lisbon and Brazil, spoke of his company’s delight at being a participant in this key industry event:
“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.”