Charter airline Hi Fly has unveiled the world's biggest flying billboard - an A380 super jumbo aircraft with a special livery promoting the protection of the seas.

The airline — which plugged gaps for Air New Zealand on international routes earlier this year — has rolled out an Airbus A380-800 as part of a coral reef protection campaign.

The double decker is painted on one side in dark blue displaying destroyed corals contrasting with a light blue side to show a pristine ocean with colourful and healthy marine life and the slogan "Not too late for Coral Reefs".

"A big cause requires a big answer and now, the biggest commercial aircraft on the planet will be the one carrying this big message around the globe," said Paulo Mirpuri, president of both Hi Fly and Mirpuri Foundation which supports environmental and social causes.


He said if no action was taken coral reefs would disappear by 2050.

"With 50 per cent of the world's corals already gone, action needs to be taken immediately and awareness is the first step," he said.

The Mirpuri foundation was also fighting plastic pollution by backing a boat in the just completed Volvo Ocean Race which stopped in Auckland. Throughout the race the yacht, Turn the Tide on Plastic, took samples to determine levels of microplastics in the water.

The highest levels were in the South China and North Philippine seas with up to 357 particles per cubic metre. Close to Auckland there was about 60 particles per cubic metre.

Hi Fly crew are fronting a campaign to protect the oceans. Photo / Supplied
Hi Fly crew are fronting a campaign to protect the oceans. Photo / Supplied

The A380 is the world's biggest commercial aircraft and its addition to the Hi Fly fleet is significant, representing the first second life for the superjumbo, a sluggish seller among world airlines.

The 10-year-old plane was previously flown by Singapore Airlines will enter service with Hi Fly next month.

Bloomberg reports the 471-seat would be leased to a large European airline seeking its first A380 for flights across the North Atlantic, and an East Asian carrier that already has a fleet of the double-deckers.

Mirpuri said the A380 was a good aircraft for high-density airports where slots were restricted and cannot easily be added.


"We do believe in the second life of the A380. If you expect 25 years of operation, this aircraft has passed just over one-third of its commercial life," he said. Costs for airlines leasing older A380s would be reasonable, "while still allowing for a decent margin for Hi Fly".

Hi Fly is the largest wet leasing specialist operating an all Airbus fleet of A330s, A340s and now the A380. Wet leasing involves the supply of aircraft and crew, maintenance and insurance. It flew A340s across the Tasman and to Hawaii from Auckland to cover for Air New Zealand which has had problems with Dreamliner Rolls-Royce engines.

When in Auckland for the Volvo race, Mirpuri told the Herald Hi Fly wanted to completely eliminate the use of avoidable and single-use plastics on its aircraft before the end of 2019.

While the goal would be difficult to achieve action needed to be taken.

The International Air Transport Association estimates the airline industry generated 5.2 million tonnes of inflight waste in 2016.

Plastic bottles could be replaced by bioplastics, and bamboo or other wood could be an alternative to plastic cutlery.

He said once 20 to 25 per cent of the industry got rid of the plastic on board aircraft, the remaining part of the industry would be forced to follow by public pressure.

An Air New Zealand initiative to reduce inflight waste started last year has resulted in more than 132 tonnes being diverted from landfill.

Project Green was launched last August in conjunction with the airline's catering partner LSG Sky Chefs and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to tackle inflight waste from international services arriving in Auckland, with a goal to divert 150 tonnes of waste from landfill annually.

Around 40 inflight products, which had previously been sent to landfill due to biosecurity controls, have been reclassified so they can be reused on flights in future if they are removed from aircraft sealed and untouched.

Tracking to date shows more than nine million individual items have been recovered for reuse or recycling rather than going to landfill.

Air New Zealand head of sustainability Lisa Daniell has said this included more than one million of each of the following: plastic cups, sugar sticks, paper cups and paper cup lids.