What Delta Hopes You Don’t Notice In Their New Eco-Conscious Amenities Announcement

Delta Air Lines is launching new inflight servicewear, wines, and amenities that they say are eco-conscious. Some of it may be, and other items included seem more… questionable.

Delta made huge environmental claims before the pandemic saying they’d be carbon neutral in 2020. They got there mostly through buying carbon offsets which frequently don’t offset carbon at all and can even increase carbon emissions.

Whenever you hear about a company’s environmental efforts there’s a complicated effort to figure out,

  • How much of a real environmental benefit is there?

  • How much of it is greenwashing or window dressing?

  • And how much of it is an excuse to cut costs, using ‘the environment’ as a convenient narrative to try to get customers to accept less? (E.g. hotels asking you to skip housekeeping and re-use your towels)

Delta says they’re focusing on sustainable amenities sourced from women and minority businesses. And they claim they’ll reduce single-use plastics by 4.9 million pounds a year. The trick here is what they consider to be baseline for the calculation, as I’ll explain in a bit.

New business class amenity kits will come from Mexico’s Someone Somewhere with skincare products from Grown Alchemist. New business class polyester bedding is made with recycled materials (over 100 bottles per set). International coach is going to get biodegradable dishware, bamboo cutlery, and a paper placemat.

They’re going to introduce Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in aluminum cans from Imagery Wine Estate on domestic flights. Notice that in the image used to promote their move away from plastics, as an excuse for wine in a can, they’re highlighting drinking out of… plastic cups:

Credit: Delta

Here’s what you’re unlikely to see pointed out in other coverage.

  • Delta eliminated metal flatware in domestic first class already. They want you to forget the standard used to be metal, and they’re promoting a move from plastic to natural and recycled materials. Although this generates waste and they used to wash and re-use their flatware.

  • They’ve also eliminated wine bottles in domestic first class. So now they’re framing the change going forward as eliminating plastic wine bottles (sacre bleu!) with canned wine. Even Spirit Airlines stopped selling wine in cans years ago. Of course, longer and more premium flights keep metal servingware and wine in bottles so their ‘concern for the environment’ only goes so far.

In other words they’ve already made cuts to the inflight experience, the announcement is real that the cuts are permanent. Post-pandemic they do not plan to restore the previous inflight experience. And they’re framing the shift as one from plastic to other materials, not metal forks to recycled material spoons and bottled wine to canned wine.

There’s some eco-friendliness in the move, along with a drive to making pandemic cost cuts permanent. Whether customers enjoy the new amenities or not is what’s ultimately key. The wine in can they’ve selected may be perfectly fine compared to what’s usually served in domestic premium cabins, but I’d rather have wine selected on the basis of its quality and drinkability in the air than on the basis of packaging.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If you’re going to greenwash, at least do it well, and Delta simply doesn’t. The bamboo utensils have been a flop, Tumi amenity kits to anything is a downgrade, and don’t get me started with the canned wine.

    Really don’t know what’s gotten into Delta in the past year. They were clear ahead of the rest of the pack in pretty much everything but route network going into the pandemic, and have just decided to coast out of it. Those pricing premiums are going to dissipate at some point if they keep on this track.

  2. Gary,
    apparently you aren’t aware that water is a natural resource and adding a bunch of soap to it creates environmental challenges.
    Single use wood cutlery is fine unless you are eating a piece of meat – which Delta and no other US airline – serves except in their premium domestic longhaul and international markets.

    I’m all for getting plastic out and using biodegradable materials where possible.

    I haven’t tried the wine but products are continually improved. canned wine years ago isn’t what to expect now.

    and Delta’s best environmental efforts come from the fact that they burn alot less fuel to generate more revenue than American and United according to the latest earnings reports.

  3. I will stick to the Top Hat margarita from the can….yum. The wooden cutlery works fine for what’s served. No more plastic cups please.

  4. When are conservatives who predominately own Delta’s shares going to push back? Why is Delta making a deal out of hiring Mexicans to produce amenity kits when they could have hire black kids in Detroit or Baltimore to make the kits?

  5. They could just hand out full size bottles of Thunderbird and what ever you don’t drink you could pass it out to hobo’s on the street by the airport so you would be recycling and reducing their carbon footprint as well. #deltalogic

  6. I will contact Delta about my black lesbian transgender sister’s carbon off set company. Also if any reader would like to use her company to offset your planet destroying lifestyles please contact me

  7. There has been no indication that the bamboo cutlery and canned wine will persist in domestic first once normal meal service resumes in March. That’s all a big assumption on your part.

  8. The bamboo cutlery is garbage. It absorbs moisture the moment it touches your tongue, for which delivers an unnerving feeling when you pull it out. Just waiting for a story with someone getting a wood splinter in their mouth from it.

    Also, is Delta sorting out these materials and having them composted or recycled? I ask because if they are sent to a landfill, they still take ions to decompose.

    For the commentator saying that water is a precious resource: there are numerous cleaning systems out there already in use that can recycle the water used to clean the metal cutlery.

  9. Jack A,
    of course there are systems to treat dirty water; the US requires that treated sewage be essentially drinkable – but that doesn’t change that there is always a balance between biodegradable disposable products and reusable products.
    I personally prefer metal cutlery- that is what I use at home – like most people – and it conveys a higher sense.

    I have not used Delta’s wooden disposal cutlery but I have used others.
    Most mixed recycling is not cost effective because of the labor involved. I doubt if Delta or its caterers will sort metal disposables from other esp. paper and wood which can biodegrade. And the biggest amount of biodegradable waste would come from an international flight where 200+ coach passengers generate a lot of food waste. But international flight trash usually has to be burned for sanitary purposes.
    I am not wedded to what Delta or any other airline does but I am willing to consider alternatives. I am open to changing the way I live to lessen my impact on the environment. Sometimes it takes companies to present alternatives for people to consider them.
    and, as noted, there is no assurance that anything Delta or any company does will last esp. if customers don’t like it. Disposable and recyclable products are improving.
    and the biggest impact is undoubtedly in reducing plastic – as well as burning less jet fuel, which again, Delta is doing better at doing than American and United.

  10. Good question, what has happened to Delta in the last year and better yet where are they planning on going, that is, otherwise to the bottom?
    I was in first class three weeks ago on a 3+ hour flight from Denver to Seattle, with connecting service to Anchorage. Flight left at 6:30 AM and listed breakfast as meal service. What I received was a very unapologetic cardboard box “energy snack box” that contained plastic ware wrapped in a paper napkin along with two Oreo cookies, a meat stick, small container of cheese and crackers, and gummy bears. I could be mistaken, but breakfast has not been this way in the past in first pre pandemic and certainly not as a standard on the ground or in the air. Faired somewhat better on the Seattle Anchorage leg as we were offered three choices for lunch, all boxed. Now must admit the box looked a lot nicer then the one for breakfast. And the small slice of cold salmon was really pretty tasty while using my plastic ware to retrieve my food. Requested a scotch and water for my drink, but was informed that there was no scotch that was catered on .the flight. Have flown well over a million miles over 30 years and have never been denied my choice of scotch because it was not catered on the flight. Instead I was offered a vodka mixed with different mix selections. Chose vodka and orange juice. Never again will I use my valuable (?) points on a first class seat on Delta. Oh and by the way, I could barely squeeze into my seat with less legroom then their joke of Comfort Plus offering in economy. Spirit and Frontier are quickly surpassing the legacy airlines in term of service and comfort.

  11. Seems like spending all those dollars on mileage runs for status was a waste of money and time.

  12. LJ,
    first Delta apparently announced that it is returning hot meals to domestic first class. One Mile at a Time covered it.
    second, I get that we all want the most we can get for our dollar but you might want to consider that
    a. The DOT just released its latest Air Travel Consumer Report which includes stats for the month of Nov 2021. Delta had the lowest complaint ratio of the mainline carriers – a couple regional carriers were lower than them but not a single mainline carrier had a lower complaint ratio. The only carrier that remotely comes close is Southwest – and they don’t serve food. The next closest mainline carrier was Alaska and their complaint ratio was more than twice as high as Delta’s.
    The DOT doesn’t have a category called “crappy food” or even ” surly flight attendants.” They don’t even have a category for long hold times on res lines.
    They do worry about stuff like cancelled and delayed flights, denied boarding, and mishandled baggage – probably because stuff like that really matters.
    if you don’t like what someone serves, fly somewhere else – and trade off higher delays, cancellations and lost baggage.
    b. The big 3 (American, Delta, and United) have reported their financial performance for the 4th quarter. Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue report tomorrow. So far, Delta is the only one that showed a profit when looking at core airline operations. Alaska and Southwest probably will. So half or more of US airline capacity is being operated by airlines that can’t make money right now. American lost over $1 billion in one quarter and United wasn’t far behind.
    The airline industry is a long ways from profitabililty. First class exists for business travelers including high fare passengers. If you fit that category, kudos to you for venturing out. You need to get a whole lot more people to join you in paying big money to airlines in order to see even pre-covid levels of service return across the board.
    c. You and me as taxpayers didn’t shell out tens of billions of dollars to ensure that hot meals would be served in first class but to ensure there would be an airline industry post-covid. As much as you or anyone likes or dislikes the service they are getting, the feds achieved their goal. Not a single US airline is at risk of failing right now – a significant difference from 9/11.

  13. Bring back real glassware..It is totally recyclable and re-usable after it is sterilized in a dishwasher..killing all bacteria or viruses on it!

  14. Sustainability…. I will not reuse the cheap, poorly made Someone Somewhere “products”. It will hit the garbage straight away. What a waste of funds, Delta! Tumi kits are appreciated & reused, time & time again. Others look at the kit bags with envy. Please switch back to the gusseted Tumi kits! We’re worth it.

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