Emirates bags
Aircrafted KIDS by Emirates - Emirates will donate bags made from upcycled aircraft interiors across Africa and Asia. Image Credit: Emirates

Dubai: Dubai’s flagship carrier, Emirates, announced Wednesday that it is repurposing over 50,000 kilograms of materials from 191 aircraft undergoing cabin refreshes. On World Environment Day, The airline said the materials would be used to create thousands of backpacks for community schools and organisations in Africa and Asia later this year.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

On the occasion of World Environment Day, Emirates said its engineering team tasked itself with finding 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 per cent wool and 5 per cent nylon composition with a flat weave structure, sourced from Germany and Ireland,” the airline said in a statement.

“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,” it added.

“A team of tailors have 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 said.

The airline also said the teams’ have spent weeks researching bag styles, ensuring the bags are safe and comfortable for children to use and fit for purpose.

How is it being done?

Emirates explained that 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.

A brand-new lining has been 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,” the world’s biggest airline explained.

Stock – Emirates Retrofit
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. Image Credit: Emirates

The airline said it produces the backpacks by hand in the Emirates Engineering workshop where a team of tailors - officially titled ‘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,” the statement added.

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.”

Safa added, “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. For this project, our aim is to turn what would have been waste into prized possessions.”

Emirates retrofit 

The airline’s retrofit project is a multibillion-dollar investment from Emirates, which kicked off in August 2022 to fully re-fit 191 aircraft. 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. When the aircraft is furnished with new fabrics, there is also the possibility of recovering 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, a limited-edition capsule collection of luggage, launched in November 2023 and designed in-house by Emirates Engineering, was sold out in weeks, stated the airline. Proceeds from the first sale of the not-for-profit collection Aircrafted by Emirates amounted to more than Dh70,000, and after minimal operational cost deductions, were donated to Emirates Airline Foundation supporting humanitarian projects worldwide.

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