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”, 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 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.”