SAN FRANCISCO --- Virgin America, the California-based airline that is reinventing flying, was selected today as the winner of Most Eco-Friendly Airline in the SmarterTravel Editors' Choice Awards. In addition to this recognition, the airline announces that it has recently completed the LEED certification process for its Burlingame-based headquarters with its landlord Equity Office Partners.
"As a new airline and the only California-based carrier, we've made sustainable practices a focus in our operations and training from day one," said David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America. "Although no airline can be perfect, we're pleased to be recognized for our green efforts to date and we will continue to make environmental best practices part and parcel of our business model as we grow."
Virgin America moved into its Burlingame, California headquarters in 2007, in a building which was originally built in 1995 and not certified. As part of Virgin America's renewal contract, the airline worked with their landlord Equity Office Partners to ensure that the building would be retrofitted to meet LEED Silver standards. The project was complete at the end of 2009 and was approved earlier this month by the U.S. Green Buildings Counsel. Virgin America has experienced rapid growth since its 2007 launch and the airline currently employs over 1600 teammates and plans to double its teammate base over the next three years. In order to accommodate its growth, Virgin America will expand its presence at its current 555 Airport Boulevard Headquarters location in 2010.
In addition to Virgin America's headquarters growth, the airline is expanding its presence at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) by becoming one of two anchor tenants in the airport's new Terminal 2 facility. The $383 million Terminal 2 project is also anticipated to achieve Silver LEED Certification -- and when completed in 2011, will serve as the home base of San Francisco's only hometown airline. Designed to improve indoor air quality and reduce energy consumption, the innovative sustainable elements included in Terminal 2 will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the facility by an estimated 1,667 tons per year. In addition -- Terminal 2 will offer preferential parking for hybrid cars and the first airport dining program in the country to recruit Slow Food® vendors.
"We worked hard to make our headquarters operation as environmentally efficient as possible through recycling and electric and water efficiency upgrades, and we're proud to have that same focus on sustainable operations reflected in the design of our new home at SFO's Terminal 2," said Len Sloper, Manager of Corporate Real Estate for Virgin America. "SFO has been a great partner in this project and we're excited to share this new terminal with our guests."
Since its launch Virgin America has operated a brand new fleet that is up to 25% more fuel and carbon efficient than the average fleet flying domestically. The airline employs practices such as single engine taxiing, maximizing use of efficient ground power, utilizing advanced avionics to fly more efficiently, and cost index flying -- the practice of regulating cruising speeds to reduce fuel burn.
Virgin America is the first airline to list its carbon footprint according to internationally-accepted standards via The Climate Registry. The airline is also the first to offer guests the ability to offset the carbon footprint of their flight -- in-flight via the touch-screen Red seatback entertainment through partner Carbonfund.org.
Virgin America also voluntarily offsets its headquarters footprint on an annual basis. On October 1, 2009, Virgin America published its first annual Climate Report, which includes an overview of its industry-leading sustainability efforts as well as comprehensive 2008 emissions data for all six internationally-recognized greenhouse gases (GHGs).The report also benchmarks the airline's leading performance versus other domestic carriers. In addition, Virgin America has initiated recycling pilot initiatives and currently recycles in-flight waste from approximately 47 percent of its flights. The airline intends to expand these recycling efforts further in 2010. Virgin America's Company-wide Green Teams also involve teammates at all levels of the organizations to find new ways to reduce our collective footprint. For more on Virgin America's climate record, please visit: http://www.virginamerica.com/va/aboutus.do?pageName=environmentalSustainability
SmarterTravel® editors' 2010 picks include the best airlines, airports, reward/loyalty programs, providers and reward cards among others. Overall, SmarterTravel gave the highest marks to companies that have remained focused on providing value and service for great customer experience.
"Our editors follow the ins and outs of the travel industry every day and they have chosen the best of the best in each category," said Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel. "These winners are meeting the needs of today's traveler."
Click here for more information on the winners and to see the full list.