The Sustainable Cabin Forum 2019 was hailed as a groundbreaking success after it gave airline and airport operators a valuable opportunity to discuss their experiences, achievements and aspirations, for the first time with key regulators, in a bid to tackle the challenges of single-use plastic and catering waste in aviation.
The Forum, held at the Penha Longa Resort in the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais, near Lisbon, on European Maritime Day, was organised by wet-lease carrier Hi Fly and the Mirpuri Foundation, in partnership with IATA (International Air Transport Association) and under patronage of the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Hi Fly and Mirpuri Foundation President, Paulo Mirpuri, said the Sustainable Cabin Forum 2019 had been conceived: “to share knowledge and best practices across airlines, airports, catering companies, manufacturers and industry regulators in a bid to discuss single-use plastic and catering waste resulting from the worldwide air-carriage of passengers”.
IATA Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, addressing the Forum via video, said: “This is an important first step in bringing together industry leaders and regulators.
“Aviation is the business of freedom, but we have a duty to future generations, and sustainability must always be at the heart of our work.
“While we all recognise that cabin waste and single-use plastics have become a big issue for us, replacing these items is not always as easy as it might appear, and we should be aware that there is always the possibility of causing unintended environmental damage.
“However, efforts to go green can also be hindered by regulation, and we must ensure we seek a smart regulatory approach to sustainability.”
Opening one of the afternoon sessions, Commissioner Vella thanked the Mirpuri Foundation and Hi Fly for organising the Forum and for their ceaseless work on sustainability matters.
“It’s great to see that Hi Fly plastic free flights were an outstanding success, not only in terms of avoiding waste but also in terms of passengers satisfaction, and is encouraging to see other companies following this example” – Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries,” he said.
The Commissioner then went on to acknowledge that, though sustainability meant different things to different people, there was wide agreement that change was urgently needed.
He told delegates that current practices of “producing, consuming and then disregarding without thought” needed to change’ and that a circular economy, aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources, should be the aim of all stakeholders. In this connection, he reminded delegates that: “the European Commission is here to help you.”
Panelists and attendees throughout the day acknowledged the challenges facing the industry, and representatives from IATA and the European Commission, together with leaders from the aviation industry set out their own visions for a more sustainable future, described the steps they were taking and took questions on their experiences and achievements to-date.
The day’s wide-ranging discussions also assessed the challenges lying ahead and the perceived adequacy of the industry’s current regulatory framework.
President Paulo Mirpuri explained why, and how, Hi Fly had become the first carrier globally to operate single-use plastic-free passenger services in a series of intercontinental test flights over the Christmas period 2018. The President also talked attendees through the airline’s initial vision and the actions it was now taking to secure fleet-wide implementation of the company’s policy by the end of this year.
Speaking for IATA at the Forum, Jon Godson, Assistant Director, Environment, admitted he had been impressed by the passion of the Forum organisers to advance the cause of sustainability. ‘‘I have seen more movement here today in the mind-set of some of the regulatory bodies than I have seen in years of meeting with them,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of Heathrow Airport, Mark Tomkins, the Airport’s Resources and Environment Manager, said: “It’s been an impressive achievement just to get so many stakeholders in the same room. Hopefully, we can return next year and see how far things have come. Today was a great day for talking, but we need action, and action based of properly researched data and information sharing. We will have to see, then, how things develop.”
Representing Air Canada, the carrier’s Director of Environmental Affairs, Teresa Ehman, was full of praise for what she had seen and heard, saying: “Our sustainability journey at Air Canada started 25 years ago, but Hi Fly’s first single-use, plastics-free flight really set the bar for what is possible.
“Our challenge now is to find the solutions to help make this a daily reality.”
The Sustainable Cabin Forum 2019, was conceived by Hi Fly, the Mirpuri Foundation and IATA to help develop and share best practices for stakeholders in the field of single-use plastic and cabin waste.
It attracted over 150 interested parties from all over the globe and included European Commission regulators, representatives from the IATA, as well as the globe’s largest and most prestigious airlines, key global airports, airline catering companies, product manufacturers and circular economists.
With Forum attendees estimated to be responsible for the transport of more than half a billion passengers a year between them, the Sustainable Cabin Forum was a truly groundbreaking event, gathering together all those with an interest in building a more sustainable future for the airline industry.
Among there airlines in attendance were: Air Canada, Etihad, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, United Airlines, TAP, Singapore Airlines, Delta, Iberia, KLM, Finnair, Kenya Airways and Cathay Pacific.
Here we asked a cross section of attendees what they thought of the Forum:
Francisco Javier Reviriego Gordejo, European Commission, Head of the Sector Disease Control and Identification.
“It’s been brilliant, brilliant and inspiring, Paulo, the Foundation President has really touched us all. The way he speaks and the way he steers this process”.
“I’m from the other side, the regulatory side. The man from dark and cloudy Brussels, but this is really dynamic.
“I know by job, but maybe I came here in a slightly defensive mode. I have never been exposed to such an open discussion and, as the day has gone on, I have come to appreciate that there is much room for discussion. I can promise that I will listen and I will meet people.”
IATA. Assistant Director, Aviation Environment
“After meeting and talking with Paulo, I’m seriously impressed.
“If Hi Fly can do just some of what it is attempting, it will be a great success for our industry.
“To get everyone together in such a short time, and to include the industry’s regulators, is a feat in itself.
“I have seen more movement here today in the mind-set of some of the regulatory bodies than I have seen in years of meeting with them.
“We must now push on and see what we can achieve together.
“Paulo, Hi Fly and the Foundation have given us an excellent platform.
The work starts now.”
Mark Tomkins, Heathrow Airport, Resources and Environment Manager
“It’s been impressive, just to get so many stakeholders in the same room. Hopefully, we can return next year and see how far things have come.
“Today was a great day for talking, but we need action, and action based of properly researched data and information sharing. We will have to see then how things develop.”
Teresa Ehman, Air Canada, Director of Environmental Affairs
“Our sustainability journey at Air Canada started 25 years ago, but Hi Fly’s first single-use, plastics-free flight really set the bar for what is possible.
“Our challenge now is to find the solutions to help make this a daily reality.”
Juliet Montague, British Airways, Customer Experience Effectiveness Executive
“I was worried when I arrived, and listened to what had been said and done, that at BA we may be a little behind the curve on some of this sustainability stuff. But, as the day went on, I realised that this is the start of an important conversation across the whole industry.
“It’s important, now, that competition is put to one side and that we share information and best practice to see what we can really achieve.”
Buzz, Business Development Director
“The industry needs to start making incremental changes now.
“We have done a lot of research and development into new sustainable products, but airlines are massive organisations. The catalyst for change must come from the top, from industry leaders like Paulo. When the industry is ready, we will have the products to bring to market.”
Victoria Morin , Air France, Sustainable Development Manager
“It’s been brilliant to get everyone around the table. At Air France we have been thinking about how to make a plastic-free flight implementable. So it’s nice to get ideas on that, and to step from competition to collaboration.”
Lígia Fonseca, IATA, National Account Manager, Portugal
“It’s been an amazing day in a beautiful venue. I’m the Account Manager for Hi Fly, and lobbying and aviation are my passions, so I’m excited to have attended. It feels now like change for the good is on the way.
“But, there is no point going forward with regulation till we have properly assessed what we need to do. Airlines must be central to this discussion.”
Matthias Reiss – Airbus Cabin Design Office, System Engineer
“It’s been brilliant to get all the stakeholders in the same room. That’s the key aspect for me. At Airbus, we of course try to engage with others regarding the customer experience, but to attend such a holistic event has been a first for me”.
Peter Goodwin, Founder and Managing Partner, CoCre8
“It’s been good. It’s been one of those pivotal moments where you get everyone in the room. I’ve never seen the OEMs in the room with the airports, so every stage, from generation to the recovery point, was here.
I’m really into this stuff; it’s been really interesting. I feel confident moving forward from this. It felt like a big step today.”