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5793 05 Jun 2024

Made from Upcycled Aircraft Interiors, Emirates to Donate Thousands of Children’s Backpacks

Emirates will give new life to the materials and is personally producing thousands of handmade children’s backpacks and schoolbags, to be donated to community schools and organisations supporting early education across Africa and Asia this year.

Dubai, UAE, 5 June 2024: To commemorate World Environment Day and as part of an environmental strategy that includes a commitment to consuming responsibly, Emirates is readying to repurpose more than 50,000 kilograms of materials from 191 aircraft undergoing a cabin interior refresh. Emirates will give new life to the materials and is personally producing thousands of handmade children’s backpacks and schoolbags, to be donated to community schools and organisations supporting early education across Africa and Asia this year.

To minimise waste, Emirates’ Engineering team tasked themselves to find a way to repurpose the fabrics from the Economy Class seats of 22 Airbus A380 aircraft that have completed the retrofit process. From these aircraft, 5,205 kilograms of scrap materials were recovered, including seat fabric of 95% wool and 5% nylon composition with a flat weave structure, sourced from Germany and Ireland. The materials were identified as ideal for upcycling due to their durability and non-flammable nature, and a decision was made to make high quality backpacks for children in need.

In the workshop at Emirates Engineering, a dedicated team of tailors creatively designed a whole range of backpacks, for children of different ages and worked with the Emirates Corporate Communications, Marketing & Brand team to identify charitable entities, schools, orphanages, and foundations, where the bags are set to be distributed in the coming months.

Emirates’ teams spent weeks researching bag styles, ensuring the bags are safe and comfortable for children to use and fit for purpose. Across all the individual designs, all fabrics are freshly laundered in a facility, then further deep cleaned by hand, leather-conditioned for the leather accents featured on some bags, and thoroughly disinfected before being sewn into unique pieces. Brand new lining is added to the bags, along with functional zippers and adjustable straps. The result is a range of sturdy, quality bags which Emirates will make-to-order for worthy causes across Africa and Asia.

Emirates produces the backpacks by hand in the Emirates Engineering workshop where a team of tailors - officially titled as Engineering Maintenance Assistants, are responsible for assembling and stitching the bags. Their roles normally involve fixing any tears in the interiors of Emirates’ vast aircraft fleet, but now many of these tailors are also putting their skills towards the production of schoolbags for students across Emirates’ network.

Ahmed Safa, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President for Engineering, said: “We are so proud of our people at Emirates and their commitment to this initiative. Countless hours have been invested into making these bags for children; it’s a true passion project for our diligent team. We’ve even had volunteers within the larger company come forward and offer to help with the project, there is a huge appetite to contribute and support entities in need. It’s also a testament to Emirates’ commitment to constantly evolve our environmental efforts and examine all aspects of our products and supply chains. For this project, our aim is to turn what would have been waste, into prized possessions.’

The world’s largest ever known retrofit project is a multibillion-dollar investment from Emirates, which kicked off in August 2022 with the intention of fully re-fitting 191 aircraft and elevating customer experience. This includes 110 Airbus A380s and 81 Boeing 777 aircraft, which together have the potential to provide up to 50,000 kilograms of waste fabrics. As and when the aircraft are furnished with new fabrics, there is also scope to recover the excess ‘cut off’ materials for repurposing and upcycling.

From the 22 Airbus A380 aircraft that have been completely retrofitted, materials from First and Business Class cabins such as leather, aluminium, and wool have already been repurposed. The Aircrafted by Emirates range is a limited-edition capsule collection of luggage launched in November 2023 and designed in-house by Emirates Engineering, which sold out in a matter of weeks. Proceeds from the first sale of the not-for-profit collection Aircrafted by Emirates amounted to more than 70,000 AED, and after minimal operational cost deductions, were donated to Emirates Airline Foundation supporting humanitarian projects around the world.

Managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team, the retrofit is a considerable project that will take years to complete and provide multiple opportunities for upcycling. This will see 21,814 Economy Seats installed, 8,104 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 1,894 First Class suites refurbished, over 11,182 new generation Business Class seats installed, as well as the opportunity for more creative upcycling initiatives to be launched.