Virgin Atlantic is aiming to become a “custodian of the environment” by upgrading its fleet and promoting sustainable aviation fuels.
That was the message from chief executive Shai Weiss speaking to TTG onboard the airline’s celebration flight to promote its new Heathrow-Tel Aviv route on Wednesday (23 October).
“We have a desire to be the most loved travel company and to do that, you have to be an amazing custodian of the environment and really excellent at working with local communities,” said Weiss.
To reduce its environmental impact, Virgin Atlantic is investing in new aircraft including 14 new A330-900neos, which will help the company have the youngest fleet in the sky by 2024, with an average age of 5.3 years.
“The efficient two-engine planes will offer a 30% reduction in CO2 compared with the four-engine planes,” he added.
Weiss said Virgin Atlantic would continue to promote sustainable aviation fuels such as LanzaTech, which it used to partly fuel the flight of a commercial plane to New York last year.
He added the company is also looking at “other sustainable options”, including electric and hybrid planes, which he suggested might be a more viable option for domestic sister company Virgin Connect. He added that he doesn’t envisage electric or hybrid planes being ready in the next 20 years for long-haul routes.
Another focus is carbon offsetting, Weiss revealed. “We would like to invest in projects that create offsets, whether that’s virgin forest or a massive solar plant.”
He added that while climate concerns should be heeded, the aviation sector must continue to thrive.
“The environment is not going to go away nor should it, but neither is flying. I can’t imagine a world without flying. That’s not progress. So it’s how you do it rather than not doing it.”
Weiss said the company had already increased the frequency of flights from Manchester and Gatwick airports since the demise of Thomas Cook, and said there would be “more announcements in the next few weeks" around its plans to serve ex-Thomas Cook Airlines customers.
Speaking to TTG ahead of the Tel Aviv flight, vice-president of UK and European sales, Lee Haslett, said Virgin Atlantic was “proactively looking at what more we can do for the summer next year” from Manchester.
Weiss also predicted Virgin Atlantic would return to profitability by 2021.
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