Sustainability in focus: airBaltic

Launched: 2021

Elements: Catering & CSR Enhancements

In the second quarter of 2021, airBaltic stepped up an ongoing process of focusing on environmental, economic and social sustainability. The airline believes those carriers who are already working on improving their sustainability will be the winners of the future.

To this end the team has made significant efforts to reduce food waste, introduce more environmentally-friendly packaging for the onboard service, and digitalise cabin crew and flight crew reports. It is also developing internal processes that will give it a 100% paperless operation.

AirBaltic’s environmental management is based on the principle of continuous and systematic improvement. It has identified the key environmental aspects of its operations, their impacts, risks and opportunities, and has set targets related to each. This work extends also to the onboard service, with airBaltic implementing more environmentally-friendly packaging and reducing waste.

The food catering waste management process is mainly controlled by the supplier following the requirements effective country by country taking account of the stricter regulations enforced for flights arriving from third countries, where requirements are also controlled by the Food and Veterinary Service. The supplier is required to separate cardboard materials from other waste.

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Positive change

In 2019, 45% of total inflight waste was reported as food waste (loaded onto the aircraft, but not consumed during the flight); in 2020 food waste accounted for 42% of total inflight waste, and in year 2021 it decreased to 38%. This is a result of significant growth in meal pre-ordering, in which the preparation and delivery process is planned and does not leave much space for food waste.

To further this, in the area of onboard food service, airBaltic looked at the numerous food safety restrictions and hygiene principles it has to follow with a view to resolving the limitations and challenges these present in introducing environmentally-friendly packaging and cutting food waste. Paperless processes in daily work activities is giving the team the opportunity to deliver any report faster for investigation and future changes.

AirBaltic recognises that a growing number of customers are concerned about the impact on the environment caused by the services and products they use. In response to this the carrier is providing transparency on its activities by compiling annual reports and other corporate information for public consumption, as well as making a vast amount of information available about the company’s sustainability efforts through its inflight magazine.

Ongoing processes

Introduction of more environmentally-friendly processes has been a part of the airline’s onboard service concept for a few years now. The team believes that today’s customers seek the highest quality service and expect that the service provider has thoroughly investigated ways how limit the environmental impact of its operations. This includes using less paper in daily work activities.

In addition to onboard service, the company has undergone various efficiency and digitalisation projects. Striving to ensure paperless operations onboard, last year alone the company introduced electronic flight plans for pilots (one of the last documentation they had to print) and digital post flight reports for cabin crew and ground handling staff.

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Prioritising Pre-order

At the heart of its sustainability initiatives has been its Meal Pre-Ordering Programme. In Q4 of 2021 the airline launched a revised menu and concept for this successful and innovative meal pre-order system as part of an ongoing commitment to improvement. The service offers a wide choice of meals for different dietary requirements and the booking process is designed to be user-friendly and flexible. For example, passengers departing from Riga can enjoy a meal ordered up to an hour before departure.

Options include a healthy breakfast, exquisite lunch and delicious dinner all designed to turn the journey into a gastronomic adventure. And great effort is being made on new menu and packaging details focused on sustainability. Delicious food and easy, well organized ordering allows the airline to reach close to zero waste.

Data driven

In 2019, the menu was completely changed based on careful revenue analysis. Non performing meals were taken of the menu, and each meal kept was revised, updated and upgraded with great support from LSG Group’s chefs as well as some leading chefs from local restaurants. More than 20 new meals were introduced. The branded B-cafe was created, highlighting that each meal is freshly-made just before departure, and a lot of work was done on food photography and PR to support the pre-order programme. This enhancement programme was repeated in 2021 and will be done again every two years to ensure constant improvement in line with the company’s core values of: ‘We deliver. We care. We grow’. The goal is to ensure high quality meals, a wide offer, simple ordering and a quick delivery process.

To establish the pre-order system, the team gathered a great deal of data and information. Several projects were run, relating to the airline’s food offer, to gain insights into historical facts behind the scenes. These insights overturned the myth that airline food is not enjoyable as it revealed what passengers actually thought about the menus and service, and identified their priorities.

Creating a buzz

Assessments after pre-order was introduced showed a 50% increase in meal pre-orders showing the changes were correct. The airline noted that suddenly passengers were talking about how delicious and  convenient it was to eat inflight and it became trendy to have a dinner in the sky. AirBaltic sold close to 100,000 meals during the 2021 despite the heavy impact of pandemic conditions. It is ambitious, about the quality of its food, but is also paying close attention to every detail by involving famous Latvian chefs to support the menu creation process. Every two years sales results, passenger feedback, and cabin crew insights are assessed as the basis for further revisions. The team constantly challenges itself to achieve new heights.

The airline believes the meal pre-order service is now well recognised and valued, based on the successful formula of: offer – order – delivery. Passengers value a concept which offers them more than 70 meal choices, smooth and flexible pre-ordering process (during the booking, after booking, during check-in), and high priority delivery onboard. The B-cafe brand has become trusted and passengers have confidence in it, associating the offer with fresh, healthy, high quality food. The offer reflects trends in the food industry, packaging innovations and the development of technologies. Results are strong and passenger feedback is positive.

With the launch of a new cabin wifi product, soon passengers will also be able to order meals for their next flights while onboard using our cabin wi-fi.


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