Sustainability in the Sky

Hello again,

It’s Rebecca here!

With us flying back from Singapore shortly, I thought it was convenient to discuss sustainability in relation to the recent re-launch of the world’s longest flight from Singapore to New York.


We may not be hopping on this 18.5 hour flight (yes nearly 19 hours!!) but 161 passengers are on each flight. Think about all the other thousands of flights that travel through our skies every day, raising questions about sustainability in the sky. On a positive note, this plane (A350-900 ULR) has been designed to use about 25% less fuel than the older Boeing 777 series did; which is a progressive step considering this flight path was previously aborted in 2013 where it was considered unsustainable due to the extensive amounts of fuel used. However, 24,000 litres of fuel will still be carried through our skies to complete one journey.


We often reflect about waste on the land, and more recently in our oceans but what about our skies? With the aviation industry rapidly growing and the population increasing there are inevitably going to be more strains on our environment particularly when airlines are using competitive pricing strategies and acquiring more frequent flyers. Consider the amount of waste accrued from the plastic trays, cups, cutlery, toothbrush and even moisturising gel to the fuel used to travel 9,535 miles. Apparently, there are 35 bottles of champagne and 60 bottles of wine on board this longest flight – let’s just hope they get recycled correctly!

There are strong sustainability practices in place, with Singapore Airlines intending to use more sustainable and meatless ingredients for example using fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. However, on occasion there may be some unavoidable scenarios e.g. if a plane is delayed then chefs may be required to work overtime to produce another batch of food therefore wastage occurs.

My Experience

It has been discussed that the aviation industry needs to be more collaborative, but it is encouraging that airlines such as Hawaiian airlines want to be carbon neutral growth from their 2020 baseline and Virgin Atlantic are developing a technology to turn industrial pollution into jet fuel. Observing sustainability on our flight to Singapore was particularly interesting. It was re-assuring to receive metal cutlery and a CSR & Sustainability section in the ‘About Etihad’ on their interactive screens for every passenger creating an awareness of these issues. Although we had hours to spare on the flight, who reads it, I am not too sure.

Whilst walking through the terminal in Abu Dhabi we encountered a kinetic floor which generates electricity by harnessing the power of footsteps. Ironically positioned alongside a travelator, these moving walkways clearly use more energy than the kinetic floor but utilising the simplest power of footsteps creates a conversation about sustainability, literally a ‘step’ in the right direction.

travelatorSource: Own

I look forward to observing waste and plastic consumption on our return flight, including the innovative plastic waste bins we noticed upon arrival into Singapore and questioning our impact on the environment.

plastic airportSource: Own

Although I have had such an amazing experience in Singapore with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), considering all the sustainability concerns in our skies, some may argue that with radical advances in technology the WBCSD should be conducting e-conferences instead.

I will leave that for you to ponder…

Thank you for reading,

Rebecca Pipes


Dwyer-Lindgren, J. (2018). Now flying from NYC: The world’s longest flight. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].

Ellis, E. (2016). The Best New Green Energy Tech Could Be Right Underfoot. [online] WIRED. Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].

Mitchell, H. (2018). How Hawaiian Airlines is answering the sustainability call – Travel Weekly. [online] Travel Weekly. Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018]. (n.d.). Free stock photos · Pexels. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].

Porter, S. (2018). It’s the world’s longest non-stop flight… for now. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018]. (2017). Singapore Airlines To Boost F&B Sustainability Practices. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Slutsken, H. (2018). World’s longest flight readies for takeoff. [online] CNN Travel. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s