MIAMI – If you’re traveling on Alaska Airlines (AS) starting today you may notice something different. The airline’s water service now comes in a box.

Alaska Airlines is trading its plastic water bottles for Boxed Water is Better. The brand’s carton is 92% plant-based. The airline is also swapping out plastic cups for recyclable paper cups.

The airline says this change will save about 1.8 million pounds of single-use plastics from flights over the next year. This is equivalent to the weight of 18 Boeing 737s.

Inflight water service is the most significant contributor to onboard plastic waste. The switch will effectively remove 22 million plastic cups and 32 million plastic bottles per year from AS flights.

Alaska Airlines N847VA Airbus A320. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Protecting the Environment

“As a West Coast-based airline, we fly to some of the most beautiful places on earth. Protecting these habitats is critical for our collective future, and reducing plastic waste is a key step,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, vice president of public affairs and sustainability for Alaska Airlines. “We’re proud to partner with Boxed Water on a continued journey to minimize inflight waste.”

“We are grateful to Alaska Airlines’ bold steps toward plastic waste reduction,” noted Daryn Kuipers, CEO for Boxed Water. “Our ability to scale with Alaska from First Class to main cabin in just six months demonstrates both operational feasibility and the interest travelers have in more renewable inflight offerings.”

The carrier began a trial of Boxed Water is Better in early 2021 in First Class service and on Alaska’s Horizon Air-operated flights. The airline says both employees and customers preferred the new product over the old plastic bottled water by a margin of two to one.

“Only 9% of plastic is recycled nationwide. The rest ends up in landfills, burned or in our environment,” said Todd Traynor-Corey, managing director of guest products for Alaska Airlines. “Although we have an industry-leading recycling program, the reality is that we need to move to renewable options.”

Alaska Airlines will replace plastic water bottles beginning Nov. 4, tackling the biggest source of inflight plastic waste. Photo: Alaska Airlines

Thoroughly Vetted

The airline trialed and vetted several options, investigating each product’s package materials, water quality, life cycle analysis, production impacts, and recycling capabilities.

The airline says that “Boxed Water is a fully recyclable box-shaped carton of water, sealed with a plant-based cap. Boxed Water uses a proprietary purification process which includes reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, UV light and ozonation. The water is also pH neutral and free from additives.”

Featured image: Alaska Airlines N253AK Boeing 737-900ER | Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways