May 30, 2024

Airlines can lead the way

Look to new manufacturers in China and airlines can find affordable eco options available now, insists Malton Inflight’s CEO Gordon Oakley

We have reached a tipping point on eco-friendly materials which means the issue of cost can no longer be an excuse or a barrier. Prices are falling and if airlines don’t move towards eco-products now, they’re not really trying.

From my base in Shanghai, I see it clearly. Big investors are now supporting environmental change by developing the products and materials needed fast. I am personally working on a big development for an industrial park which will have 15-20 factories just outside Shanghai, all focused on producing sustainable materials and products for the aviation sector. The ultimate goal is for 50 such manufacturers across China.

Chinese momentum
The Chinese see what is coming and want to move away from plastics to eco-products fast. They are supporting technical colleges and R&D in materials because they understand the future.

It is simply false to say the Chinese are backward with regards eco-products, they are in transition but it is happening fast. Once the Chinese government commits to something it does happen fast and it has committed to this. It is now happening at every level.

Aviation led
Aviation products are being given a priority in this development because the government and the investors see that airlines are the shop window on to world of eco products, they are
a way into worldwide markets. As a result, critical mass is building to get the products flying, and the first 10-15 airlines to move this way while Chinese investors are actively supporting growth will get superb prices.

In 2003, Malton Inflight started a Back to Earth range. No one cared much, it was four or five times more expensive and airlines just said forget it. Now there is the will, consumer pressure and the business models to make it happen.

Just make a start
Airlines can play a very positive role in showing what is possible and what is out there. They just have to start, that’€™s the important thing. Turkish Airlines recently switched to using biodegradable bags for earphones. It sounds small but in fact, eliminated 70-80 million pieces of single-use plastic from the supply chain. That feels good for everyone. Make a start and things can change and that is truly heart-warming.