Why In-flight Sustainability Is An Increasingly Important Part Of The Puzzle

By Dirk Singer / October 27, 2022

Even though it’s only a small part of the aviation sustainability puzzle, in-flight sustainability is an increasingly important one.

That’s because of what the passenger sees and experiences. If a flight is powered by SAF, the experience is the same as if it’s powered by fossil fuels.  However if recycled or non plastic products are used on board, s/he notices.

This was a theme that came out of this year’s APEX/IFSA EXPO in Long Beach, California.

For example textiles company John Horsfall showcased its “Re-Thread” range of products.

“It’s important that the customer knows that the airline is working towards a sustainability story”, said John Horsfall’s design manager Alexandra Allen. “What happens in the cabin is what they see, and that in turn gives them the idea that there are other things going on in the background.”


In other words it’s a sign-post, a headline that the company is serious about sustainability.  

“We’re not going to fix everything with a recycled blanket but from a passenger point of view, it’s something consumers are more and more used to seeing and expect to see”, added John Horsfall business development manager manager Ellie Parks. 

This comes as there is a move to eliminate single use plastics from the consumer supply chain, with airlines themselves being engaged in plastic elimination initiatives.

The Re-Thread range includes materials made from either partially or wholly with recycled fibres.  It also includes women blankets made with ‘rpets’, recycled polyester made from waste plastic, and products made with regenerated cotton (from waste garments).

Finally, it includes material made from bio-fibres, which are designed to replace plastic based polyester blankets you see especially in economy.  

John Horsfall’s Ellie Parkes admitted that there is a green premium associated with these products, but many airlines will pay that in order to offer passengers more sustainable products.


Amenity kits focused on reusability

Turning to amenity kits, FORMIA’s chief customer officer Marisa Pitsch says “there is no conversation that’s being had where that’s (sustainability) not a focus now.”

When making sustainable amenity kits for airlines, FORMIA looks at two areas in particular – reusability and the base materials.

For example, the JetBlue kits used in economy on the London to Boston and New York routes can be used for everything from food storage (they are oven, microwave and fridge safe) to cosmetics bags.

A sign on the bag in fact encourages passengers to reuse it.


At APEX/IFSA EXPO, FORMIA displayed amenity kits made from a range of materials.  This includes the increasingly common E-Leather but also more experimental materials such as Bananatex, which is a fabric made from banana plants.

FORMIA also showed an amenity kit concept made from Social Plastic.  This is an NGO which pays people in the Global South to collect plastic waste and hand it in for recycling in exchange for digital credits that can be used for services such as healthcare and education.  

That’s a compelling story, which is also one of the attractions of Delta’s Someone, Somewhere amenity kit.  The ‘Someone, Somewhere’ kits are made by artisans in Mexico, and a QR on each amenity kit gives the passenger the opportunity to find out who made their kit, and even to message the artisan in question.

More aviation-specific sustainability updates and analysis can be found in our twice-weekly Sustainability In The Air newsletter, led by SimpliFlying’s Research Director Dirk Singer. Do subscribe to our send-out to stay on top of the latest trends.

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