When Etihad Airways flight EY484 touched down in Brisbane on Monday it achieved a special distinction – highly appropriate for the date, 22 April, which is Earth Day.

The airline became first in the region to operate a flight without any single-use plastics aboard. Etihad, national airline of the UAE, has pledged to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80%, not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022.

It’s the second big ‘green’ initiative by the airline this year. In a striking aviation breakthrough in January, Etihad conducted the world’s first commercial flight powered by a revolutionary sustainable fuel derived from plants grown in saltwater.

January’s flight was seen as a step towards sustainability in air travel and reduced carbon emissions. See: Etihad breakthrough: sustainable biofuel flight to Amsterdam

In this week’s plastic initiative aboard EY484, a B787-9 Dreamliner flight, Etihad identified over 95 single-use plastic products are used across its aircraft cabins. Once removed from the Earth Day flight, Etihad prevented over 50 kilograms of plastics from being landfilled.

Passengers used replacement products including sustainable amenity kits, eco-thread blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles, tablet toothpaste and edible coffee cups. Children were treated to eco-plush toys.

Etihad B787-9 Dreamliner

As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad additionally committed to remove up to 20% of the single-use plastic items on board by 1 June 2019. By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its inflight service.

Etihad Aviation Group chief executive, Tony Douglas, spoke of “a growing concern globally about the overuse of plastics which can take thousands of years to decompose.

“We discovered we could remove 27 million single-use plastic lids from our inflight service a year and, as a leading airline, it’s our responsibility to act on this, to challenge industry standards and work with suppliers who provide lower impact alternatives.”

Edited by Peter Needham