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:
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.