April 15, 2024

Alaska Airlines leads the way in cutting plastic cups

Could Alaska Airlines win Cabin Concept of the Year 2023?

Airline: Alaska Airlines

Launched: December 2022

Elements: Catering • CSR

Alaska Airlines has switched to paper cups, removing more than 55 million plastic cups from onboard service each year.

Alaska Airlines has become the first American airline to switch to paper cups, removing more than 55 million plastic cups onboard each year. The new paper cups are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

All beverages served inflight are now served in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper cups in the main cabin, and in reusable glassware for First Class services. This step has eliminated all single-use plastic cups onboard. Removing 55 million plastic cups annually is the equivalent to the weight of 24 Boeing 737 aircraft.

Product spec

The move follows growing concerns around the use of single-use plastic because of its links to fossil fuels, landfill waste and pollution to waterways and natural spaces. The change was designed to provide a positive experience for guests, allowing them to travel with greater peace of mind, knowing their flight is not contributing to single-use plastics problem. 

In selecting the new onboard cup, Alaska Airlines looked for a plastic alternative that was light-weight, fitted their very specific space constraints, had the ability to nest within each other, and withstand many different types of liquid, including alcohol (up to 45% ABV), without deterioration of the interior wall. In addition, the team prioritised the use of cups made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified components.

Eco goals

The airline prides itself on supporting healthy ecosystems in the communities it serves and is focused on care: caring for the guests, the employees, and the planet. In 2021, the carrier published aggressive goals on the environment, social impact and governance with the intention of getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2040. These goals included the replacement of the top five sources of onboard waste by 2025, one of which is plastics.

The team began the process of eliminating its five largest sources of plastic waste in 2018 by removing plastic straws and stir sticks from inflight service – a first for any airline at the time. In 2021, progress continued with the elimination of inflight plastic water bottles when the airline replaced these with Boxed Water, another first for airlines. Boxed Water cartons are made from renewable FSC certified paper, 92% of which is plant-based, saving an estimated 1.8 million pounds of single-use plastics on our flights annually. The airline plans to continue this progress and remove other high-use components containing plastic over the next two years.

Going further

The team says: “Being the first airline to make a change is never easy.  Any change requires broad collaboration with supply chain and inflight teams to ensure operational execution is possible. While the travel industry is a large contributor to carbon emissions, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the impact while still exploring our world. Many of our guests actively look to reduce their use of single-use plastics so by eliminating the use of single-use plastic cups inflight we’re extending our guests habits on the ground to the air as well as giving them great peace of mind.

“In 2021, Alaska established climate goals for its impacts in carbon, waste and water while defining a five-part pathway to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 to keep the places we live and fly beautiful and viable for generations to come. These decisions are in line with our core value of ‘doing the right thing.’”

Will Alaska Airlines win Cabin Concept of the Year 2023? Join us in Hamburg on June 6 2023 as we unveil winners at the Onboard Hospitality Awards ceremony at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE).