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The airline industry is the latest to respond to consumer demand for conscience free dining, as the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) announces a new partnership with Virgin Atlantic Airways that will see the airline’s entire global catering operation rated for its sustainability.
The SRA, which already works with 1200 restaurants of all types across the UK, and recently announced Eurostar as a new Member, hopes other airlines will follow Virgin Atlantic’s lead, giving passengers sustainable dining at 35,000 feet.
This first for the airline industry means passengers, whose dining choices are limited once on the plane, can be confident of the provenance of the food they are eating and how it was produced, just as they would in any restaurant that has completed the SRA’s Sustainability Rating. The SRA’s Sustainability Rating was dubbed the Michelin Stars of Sustainability by The Sunday Times and features in Harden’s restaurant guide. The methodology is also used by the National Restaurant Awards and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Mark Linehan, Managing Director of the SRA, said 'Our sustainability rating is now regarded as the industry standard for restaurants. We applaud Virgin Atlantic for taking the lead among airlines and look forward to working with them and other airlines to identify and manage the unique sustainability challenges posed by in-flight catering. From the Caribbean to West Africa and The US to the Far East, diners will now be able to sit back, enjoy their meal, knowing that serious thought has gone into it.'
By the end of 2013 the scheme will have been rolled out across Virgin Atlantic’s international markets, so that all of its caterers worldwide will have been rated by the SRA and be working to produce the most sustainable in-flight meals.
Reuben Arnold, Director of Customer Experience at Virgin Atlantic, said: 'We continue to be an industry leading airline on sustainability, driving solutions for the rest of aviation to share. Our adventurous spirit means we’re not afraid to push boundaries in following our sustainability agenda which is why we approached the Sustainable Restaurant Association to work together on this project'
'Value for money and quality of product are of course hugely important factors, but our passengers now rightly demand that we look beyond that, and ensure we are making the most sustainable choices. The SRA ratings will allow us to understand how we and our global suppliers are performing on this front, and how to work closely together to drive improvements.'
The assessment process has already been undertaken by Sir Richard Branson’s airline as part of the bid evaluation for a new service in Lagos, Nigeria laying the groundwork for continual sustainability improvements to be built into future contracts and tendering processes.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association has worked with Virgin Atlantic to adapt its restaurant Sustainability Rating to match the unique nature of in-flight catering. But the focus remains on the three main pillars of product, planet and people.
The SRA hopes the new partnership, a reflection of passenger demands for higher welfare products, will set a new bar for airline food quality and will eventually see the SRA’s assessments being standard practice throughout the travel industry.
Click here for more articles on sustainable food on Green Hotelier. For more information about the Sustainable Restaurant Association see www.thesra.org or click here for info on Virgin's sustainability initiatives