When United Airlines recently rolled out new Carhatt uniforms for its 28,000 Technical Operations, Ramp Service and Catering Operations employees, it had planned to turn old garments into carpet padding and insulation fibre.
But the coronavirus pandemic led to a change in tack, and the carrier has being working with upcycling partner Looptworks to produce 7,500 face coverings made from over 5,500kg of the old uniforms.
The masks have been distributed to frontline employees at San Francisco International airport and United’s Maintenance Base in the city, supplementing the supply of face coverings which the carrier already provides to employees and customers.
Commenting on the initiative Janet Lamkin, United Airlines SVP and President, California, said that it was “an opportunity to do something extra for our employees to keep them safe while also staying true to our commitment to be one of the most sustainable airlines in the world”.
“Recycling these unused uniforms into masks is a natural extension of our broader effort to overhaul our cleaning, social distancing and mitigation measures to ensure we’re doing everything possible to keep our employees and our customers safe,” Lamkin added.
United said that the upcycled masks were “more sustainable, eco-friendly… washable and reusable”.
In April the airline became the first “major US-based carrier” to require all of its flight attendants to wear face masks when on duty, and followed this up with a requirement for all passengers to waer face coverings from May 4.
United has also partnered with surface disinfection brand Clorox, and academic medical centre Cleveland Clinic, to establish its new United CleanPlus sanitisation and cleaning programme.
In 2017 United Airlines announced plans to partner with Brooks Brothers, Tracy Reese and Carhartt for new uniforms for its 70,000 staff. The new garments for flight attendants and customer service staff have yet to be rolled out.