Delta Air Lines is trialling reusable cups to serve drinks to main cabin customers in an attempt to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce single-use plastics.
As well as reusable plastic cups that can be collected in and washed, Delta has also been exploring the option of replacing single-use plastic cups with sustainable paper alternatives, although the airline says that option isn’t as simple as what it might seem.
“Finding the perfect cup is more challenging than it may seem – and the obvious choice isn’t always the most sustainable when weight and cup liner materials are considered,” the Atlanta-based airline explained.
“The plastic replacement needs to withstand hot, cold and alcoholic beverages while delivering a consistent customer experience,” a spokesperson continued. In other words, using a standard coffee cup isn’t going to work very well with cold beverages, and other options are expensive.
Delta first trialled reusable plastic cups in 2022, but for now, at least, the trial remains confined to just two roundtrip flights per year. Last month, those flights were a service from Los Angeles to Atlanta on May 17 and an international flight from Atlanta to Paris on May 23.
The airline has given itself two more years to try to ‘minimize’ the amount of single-use plastics onboard all of its flights, but so far, that has mainly been restricted to swapping out plastic utensils and drinks stirrers with bamboo alternatives.
Delta has, however, managed to remove plastic wrapping from blankets which are now made out of recycled bottles, and the airline is at least actively exploring options to achieve its sustainability goals.
Nonetheless, if airlines are to get serious about sustainability, then they’ll need to dramatically reduce their CO2 emissions. In the near term, Delta is working out whether carrying less potable water could have an impact on emissions, but the airline realizes that sustainable aviation fuels are the key to dramatically reducing CO2 emissions using today’s aircraft.
But Delta says it’s struggling to get enough SAF to meet its targets – currently 10% of its annual fuel needs by 2030. At present, however, Delta has secured contracts to supply just half of that target by 2030.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.