SriLankan Airlines has begun transforming its worldwide operations into environment-friendly “green Flights,” becoming the first airline in South Asia to make a full and unconditional commitment to environmental conservation.
SriLankan Airlines Flight UL 557 rose into the sky from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in the early afternoon of March 21 and began a new chapter in the history of Sri Lanka’s national carrier – the first green flight in the region. The flight, filled to capacity with passengers who will no doubt remember this groundbreaking flight, landed in Frankfurt that evening.
SriLankan airlines’ CEO Manoj Gunawardena said: “Our conservation efforts are driven from the bottom up within the airline, with the involvement of every employee. In fact, it was the example set by our workforce that led us to turn SriLankan into a full-fledged “green airline.” Even our waste-recycling program is being carried out by our main employee union.”
SriLankan has moved quickly over the past six months to turn itself into an environmentally-friendly company, with a wide variety of well-planned initiatives to reduce all types of consumption and recycle waste products. The airline adopted a formal environmental policy last January, bringing all of its conservation programs under one umbrella and also appointed a specialized environmental strategy unit to plan and execute conservation measures.
SriLankan’s success in increasing fuel efficiency of its aircraft fleet through the adoption of best practices has drawn the attention of the industry. SriLankan formed a fuel efficiency department last July and has since increased its fuel efficiency by an impressive average of 3.91 percent per month up to the end of January. This has climbed to an all-time high of 5.63 percent in savings in January 2009. In real terms, the airline has saved a staggering 2.38 million US gallons (9.11 million liters) of fuel over seven months.
The green flight involved a comprehensive range of measures to make each flight as environment-friendly as possible, minimizing fuel consumption and carbon emissions and reducing noise levels.
For the passengers, the experience began with a special green counter at BIA and paperless ticketing. Even the vehicles used for support services for the aircraft at BIA were certified as environment friendly, with minimum usage.
FlySmiLes, the airline’s loyalty program surprised some of the FlySmiLes members and non-member passengers with gifts and offers of bonus miles for their environmentally-friendly travel practices. Gifts included Siddhalepa Gift Vouchers to be used at the Siddhalepa Spa in Bad Homburg, Frankfurt, Germany and invitations to the Siddhalepa Anarva Centre at the BIA.
On board, cabin crew carried the message of conservation by educating passengers; there was maximum use of recyclable materials for meals using biodegradable and recyclable plastic items; waste was separated in the aircraft to be disposed of in the Frankfurt airport waste management system; and the duty-free bags were recyclable. Even the weight of magazines carried on board had been reduced.
Burning of aviation fuel was reduced by a variety of methods. On the ground, the aircraft was pushed back from the terminal and towed as far as possible to avoid excessive usage of its engines; while boarding passengers its air-conditioning and other systems were powered from ground power sources; the takeoff was on reduced flaps to burn less fuel; and the on-time departure ensured that these systems were not excessively used. The aircraft itself had been prepared further by a full wash of its fuselage and engines to reduce wind drag while in flight.
The flight also took a direct route at an optimum height for fuel conservation to Frankfurt, where it carried out a ‘continuous descent approach’ that is the most fuel efficient; landed with reduced flaps; taxied with a single engine; used “idle reverse thrust” after landing as opposed to “full reverse thrust;” and used a preferential runway, all to conserve fuel.
SriLankan is already assisting Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority on aviation environment standards in Sri Lanka and is also actively participating in environmental initiatives by the island nation’s tourism industry. In addition, SriLankan has obtained the assistance of the country’s Ministry of Environment, and Central Environmental Authority for its own conservation programs.
The airline is now planning a tree planting campaign at its premises at Bandaranaike International Airport.