VEVA "Faith in the future of aviation"

VEVA Logo V1.3

Veva based in Toulouse France is the latest addition to the aviation industry. Formed by Tannis Cateau with a minority partner in Airbus it aims to bring a fresh, modern to futuristic look at air travel putting aside the old and current and looking at what air travel should be in the years to come.

Currently the airline is operating a small fleet of 5 Airbus A220-300 jets, leased from Airbus directly running an experimental configuration. In this configuration they have ensured that all materials are fully recyclable and not animal based, in essence creating a vegan aircraft interior. The seats are unique being mostly white and come with easily removed and washable covers, this along with thoughts put to an easily cleanable interior they hope to limit the risk of decease spread which is a common issue on air travel. Part of making this work however does mean the planes require additional time in their turn arounds, where normally a plane of their size could be in and out in 20 minutes from the gate, Veva’s A220-300s will need an hour for their turn around to allow the crew to properly prepare and clean the aircraft between flights.

CEO Tannis Cateau reported that if the interiors are proven to work in practice they will be extended into their future fleet. Airbus reported that it is keen to see how the interior preforms themselves as it will give them something else to sell to their customers which is better for the environment and offers them an up selling point to their customers again. Tannis Cateau added, “Aviation is under fire as whole from the environmental perspective and people are absolutely correct to do so. The industry needs to do more to reduce their impact on all levels. However one should not forget the strides made already and reward those as well. These days a modern jet is not far off from a basic car with a single person inside in pollution output. It is far from where we all want to be, but strides are being made and I think looking at all aspects is what we need to keep on doing and I hope the public rewards those who improve.”

Tannis small
Pictured above is Veva founder and CEO Tannis Cateau. Tannis is a parkour practitioner and prefers to get around on foot, or for longer distances she rides racing bicycles unless the weather is truly unsafe. In order to further reduce the environmental impact of her own life and that of her staff the Veva lease car fleet is made up of Tesla’s with a mix of models with the model 3 being the most common one found. She herself owns a top of the line model S which she uses when the weather is really poor making parkour or cycling not a safe option to get around.

Her background leading to aviation comes from from her mother who is still an active flying Air France captain flying the fleets A380s. Tannis herself got her PPL when she was 18 saying that flying is just an other form of freedom, a feeling it shares with parkour she claims. She has recently passed her qualifications to fly the Airbus A220-300 and states she plans to fly and remain qualified for all the planes in the fleet, along with running cabin duties on some flights to remain fully aware of what happens within her business.

A vegan aircraft interior.

Yes you read this articles topic right, today we are talking about a vegan aircraft interior, I am sure plenty more would qualify, but this one presented by Veva a brand new airline from France and Airbus itself puts the label on there for sure. Along with being vegan it is supposed to be 100% recyclable a tricky feat seeing how hard it can be to find recycle plastics that comply with all the needs for an aircraft interior. So yes, let’s talk about this interior.

To start with Airbus was really eager to show us this and facilitated our travel to Toulouse which is of course their operational HQ and also the HQ of Veva which is scheduled to start revenue flights next week. The interior design has been collaboration between Veva and Airbus, it should be noted that Airbus has a minority stake in Veva, which is exactly for these kind of experimental purposes. Veva itself claims to be looking at aviation in the future and how it is possible to keep the industry alive, relevant and above all how to hopefully negate its environmental impact. Funny note though is that CEO Tannis Cateau of Veva made clear she is no vegan or even vegetarian, but she states she limits her meat intake.

Back to the interior, the first thing that you notice is the white seats with black borders and a red stripe in the middle. White in an aircraft seat seems like a bold thing seeing it would be tricky to keep it clean, but this is where the magic happens. You see each seat has a cover and that is what you are looking at, or better said 3 covers, 1 for the seat, 1 for the backrest and 1 for the headrest. These can be removed and replaced really swiftly making it possible to put fresh covers on all the seats during a planes turn around time, though more realistically they will be replaced on a daily basis. They are part of the very bright, yet calming nature of the interior, but also a key part of the fight to stop the spreading of disease which is not a commonly touched upon topic, but a very real issue with airline travel.

So to stop the spread of germs and all, the interior is designed to be part antibacterial on it’s own and above all just really easily to swiftly, but thoroughly clean. Sadly in this first iteration this does take more time than the usual small plane turnaround, but this is a sacrifice Veva is willing to make to prove the concept and hopefully improve it through practical experience and feedback. Another part of this are the larger HEPA filters used for the AC systems an increase in weight and space taken on the aircraft and something Tannis Cateau admits stolen straight from Teslas.

As we mentioned the plastics used in the interior are fully recyclable from the bins to the tray tables. There is of course still a lot of it, but as the Airbus people explain it is simply a matter of weight and cost, plastics even these are still a lot cheaper and often lighter than other alternatives. The floor still has a carpet on it, this is part comfort for those who like to go shoeless, but also to help in dampening the sound within the cabin. It has however been made so it is easily removable and again it is designed to stop allergens and all.

All in all outside of the bold choice of colour, you would hardly notice the difference between this cabin and a more common one by looks. It is worth to note that the Veva cabin is set up roomy, this is not a cramped place to be and especially on the short trips it should be a step above the market offering. This is key to them as they price themselves above the market and perhaps part of the need to do this is the cost of these cabins, which as they stand are nearly double that of a conventional cabin. It is for this reason that both Veva and Airbus make clear this is just the first version and they plan to learn a lot and refine it, though they doubt it will ever be as cheap, they hope to bring to a level where it is only 25-35% more expensive.

It is in the end another small step in making air travel more environmentally sustainable. An other part can be found in the small fleet of fully electric TUGs at Toulouse, designed to be able to move at speed when towing an airplane they bring them all the way to the staging point near the runway, making sure the plane itself doesn’t have to turn on the engines until they are truly ready for takeoff. As Tannis Cateau mentions it is all the small things that combined can make a big impact, but there is a price to pay for this all and we should be willing to pay this. Therein of course will probably lay the biggest obstacle to other airline adopting this style of interior, even if it is just a 25% up charge that is still 25% in a business where many operate on razor thin margins. Tannis Cateau however is quite straight in this and we quote: “As the industry stands right now it is not environmentally nor economically sustainable. While it is great that air travel has become available to so many people, the cost of this is too great to both the planet and the businesses. When a plane ticket is cheaper than a rail ticket we really need to look at our priorities.”

So it seems that Veva is planning to try to make an impact into the market, how big this will be time has to tell. However as far as this new interior goes it has the thumbs up from us, we would personally really prefer this over the current generation of aircraft interiors. Even if the environmental part leaves you cold (and it should not) the cleanliness of it should really be appealing, not arriving sick at your vacation is a definitive plus. O and if more airlines would offer some decent seats with actual leg room again we also would appreciate that.

Back home on Veva

Welcome back to part 2 for this trip after all flying to hear and see about this new interior was all great, but we also had to head back home to London. The flight back was offered to us by Veva and they have 2 options an early morning flight at 07:30 or an afternoon flight at 15:30. While we would love to chill out a bit more, our boss did want us back in the office so it was an early rise to catch the 0730 flight to London Heathrow.

We can be honest Toulouse is not the best airport in France, it is outdated in quite some ways and ques tend to take longer than they should. However it being early morning those where not so much an issue for us and we got through swiftly enough. We do think though the airport will need to do some investments for the future if it wants to make up for it’s ambitions. When we arrive at the gate though we have to do a double take the man at the gate wears an outfit not much different in use as the profile picture of their CEO we showed in our last article. A long sleeve red shirt, a black jacket, white pants and black running shoes. Not exactly what one would expect.

Of course he was aware of who we were and was more than eager to pass the time a bit by answering some questions. In doing so we leaned that the uniforms of Veva are all based around the concept of comfort and ease of movement with the style shown. There are quite some variations he told us so people could mix and match what they best liked, but it was all white, blacks and reds, though no mandate to use all 3 colours. Not all staff enjoyed it as much as he told us, but it was company policy and the assumption was that once people got used to it they would prefer over the more traditional airline staff clothing. To us though it will take some getting used to seeing the level Veva puts itself into the market we have a feeling it will deter some.

After our chat we boarded the plane, Veva launching without much press or marketing they state to keep the expectations lower and use the first weeks to iron out some test means there where a grand total of 8 passengers on the flight. The staff didn’t seem to mind that they almost outnumbered us. The pair of us had been booked into business class and the others where on economy tickets and put into the premium economy section instead. As the plane prepared for take off we were offered drinks and to all that meant coffee seeing the hour of the day. We also got a comfort kit, basics to freshen up and such and a thin yet effective thermal blanket. One of the nice features we didn’t mention before was that Veva decided that with their lower seat count they refitted one of the toilet areas to just be a freshen up area so no more brushing your teeth in not so nice smells of a toilet.

Soon the plane got underway, the electric tug clearly having no issues moving us along at speed and depositing us next to the runway from where the pilots finally powered up their engines and soon we barreling down the runway for a really short bit and up in the air we went. Once airborne we were asked if we were still oke with our choices for food we had made in advance and breakfast was served. Now by breakfast we mean a small morning feast, you can think of it and you could order it and after a short night you sure feel hungry and luckily the food was excellent, after all being French with bad food would be a no show.

After this we spend our time exploring the entertainment options on the plane which were surprising equal amongst all classes. In fact the staff told us that service was overall equal between the classes. The thing you paid for was your seat and the staff count with a normal flight 2 people handling the business and premium economy and 2 handling economy meaning economy service would be a bit slower. But yeah that means even if you sit in economy you are extremely well looked after from drinks to snacks to food to everything. Also a bonus was the 30W capable USB faster chargers, the full 240V outlets are of the common EU plug style so ensure you bring your own adapters along (Although the staff told us they would note this and ask management if perhaps a small number could be stocked onboard). That said right now Veva flights are all under 2 hours so power should not be an issue.

Soon however it was back to our own seats and strap down for landing, back home in London. As we deboarded the plane we knew we kind of liked Veva, it is an oddball of an airline and concept and we have our doubts it can truly work in the market. However doubts aside we hope they will succeed they seem to be thinking about things differently and asking the questions if what we currently do is acceptable or good enough. Will they transform an entire industry? Time will tell, but we doubt it, but some of these things might just slowly spread to other airlines which would not be a bad thing. Perhaps the uniforms though we understand comfort, but we are not entirely sold on the fact if this is the way forwards in that regard, you kind of like to see a pilot in suit.