Virgin Atlantic announces biggest ever carbon reductions in its annual sustainability report

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  • Virgin Atlantic reports a 22% reduction in aircraft carbon emissions since 2007
  • Multibillion dollar fleet investment underpins improvements in fuel efficiency and reductions in noise pollution

·         Pioneering sustainable food project helps improve standards for airline caterers around the world

vaVirgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays have published their joint sustainability report today – revealing impressive carbon savings, an industry leading sustainable food project, and a new approach to working with attractions that feature captive cetaceans.

Over the last nine years Virgin Atlantic has reduced its total aircraft CO2e emissions by 22% – from 5,218,451 tonnes in 2007 to 4,082,195 in 2016. This is mirrored by reductions in two key efficiency measures: CO2 per Revenue Tonne Kilometre (- 17%) and CO2 per passenger km (-22%), with all three measures having reduced 8% in the last year alone. These carbon efficiencies mean that Virgin Atlantic is already well ahead of the IATA industry target agreed for 2020.

The substantial carbon savings have largely been delivered thanks to a multi-billion dollar fleet investment in Boeing 787 aircraft, as well as a range of fuel saving initiatives such as single engine taxiing, real-time weather technology which helps pilots make smarter route choices, and rigorous weight management of all products on the aircraft.

Looking to the future Virgin Atlantic is continuing its commitment to a lower carbon fleet and in 2016 announced an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s to enter service from 2019. These more fuel efficient, quieter aircraft will replace older four engine aircraft to deliver a 30% carbon saving on every flight, meaning that by 2021, Virgin Atlantic will have one of the youngest fleets in the sky for a long haul operator.

The airline has also continued its ground-breaking partnership with clean tech company LanzaTech to create low carbon fuel by recycling carbon in waste industrial gases. The programme achieved a milestone in 2016 when it successfully generated its first significant batch of ethanol-to-jet fuel. Following the breakthrough LanzaTech was awarded a grant from the US Department of Energy to design a 3-4 million US gallon demonstration scale jet fuel plant.

Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic commented; “2016 was a landmark year for sustainability at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, in which we delivered  significant carbon savings, drove improvements in sustainable onboard food and drink, and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for our charity partners. Our investment in a cleaner, quieter fleet is well underway with the arrival of the dual engine 787s, and an order for 12 A350s will complete the fleet transformation and offer significant carbon savings, as well as an unrivalled experience for our customers.

“Despite political and economic headwinds we remain fully committed to our sustainability programme and will continue to drive new ways to reduce carbon emissions, and promote responsible supply chain and tourism practices.”

Although aircraft will always be the largest source of carbon emissions for airlines Virgin Atlantic is also continuing to improve standards across supply chains for both the airline and the holiday company, for example:

Sustainable inflight food

  • Virgin Atlantic partners with the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) helping to ensure the 5.5 million meals served on board each year meet key principles of: fair working conditions and pay for suppliers and workers; humanely farmed meat and dairy; sustainably sourced fish and seafood; and reduced deforestation-risk food.
  • Gate Gourmet UK – who serve more than 50% of Virgin Atlantic flights – now comply fully with all sustainable standards. As a result of the standards introduced by Virgin Atlantic Gate Gourmet now offers sustainable fish as standard to other UK airline customers.
  • Virgin Atlantic has focused on removing food which contributes to deforestation such as soy, palm oil and beef. All menus from the Caribbean now use rapeseed oil which saves 100 tonnes of palm oil per year.

Virgin Holidays

  • In 2016, Virgin Holidays announced that it would continue its pledge to improve the welfare of captive cetaceans in resorts it sells and bolstered this by committing to not sell any new attractions which include captive whales and dolphins.
  • The leading holiday firm is also working with their partners to promote better welfare standards in existing facilities;encourage the creation of sanctuaries for animals currently in captivity; and provide more responsible wild whale and dolphin watching experiences for customers.

Non-profit partnerships

  • Virgin Atlantic has continued its partnership with WE (formerly Free the Children) and in 2016 customers donated over half a million pounds on board flights. This has been used to support villages in five locations around the world overcome the causes of poverty such as lack of clean water, schools and healthcare.
  • Virgin Holidays have also underlined their commitment to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship by donating £200,000 p.a. to provide training, mentoring and job creation to young entrepreneurs based in the Caribbean.

Make do and mend – reducing aircraft waste

  • Stringent rules prevent long haul airlines recycling anything that has touched meat or dairy products, however Virgin Atlantic has focused on areas where they can make changes, like high value recyclables.
  • In 2016 over one million amenity kits were recycled -with 55% reassembled into new amenity kits.
  • The sponges from headsets will soon be used to surface an equestrian centre, while disused plastics on board are made into benches.

For more information and a video summary of the report visit www.virginatlantic.com/changeisintheair

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