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United Grows Sustainable Flight Fund

A United 777-300ER at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Recently, United announced a significant increase in funding for the carrier’s Sustainable Flight Fund. The Star Alliance carrier has welcomed eight additional companies alongside the five inaugural founding partners to the fund in an effort to increase the availability of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in the industry. 

The international carrier has been leading the charge to make the industry more environmentally friendly for the future, with the carrier pledging in 2020 to reduce carbon emissions by 100 percent by 2050. This lofty goal is becoming more attainable as the carrier is working with additional companies across different industries to find new ways to produce SAF for use by aircraft. 

Currently, the creation of SAFs is derived from jet fuel and a blend of organic products such as cooking oil and agricultural waste. The goal of the fund is to invest in start-ups that are researching and creating additional processes that SAF can be derived from, such as household trash or forest waste, according to United. 

Industry Collaboration

The Star Alliance carrier has already seen positive progress with the fund, investing in companies and signing purchase agreements that are using ingredients such as municipal and crop waste to create SAF. Doubling from $100 million, the fund has reached an investment level of $200 million with the eight additional companies, empowering the fund to grow and find additional options to reduce carbon emissions. 

United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen believes that great strides will be made with the fund and said, “The UAV Sustainable Flight Fund presents a unique opportunity – instead of fighting over the current limited supply of SAF, with our partners, we’re working collaboratively to help scale the SAF industry itself, and to get an equity stake in groundbreaking technology while doing it.”

While United and the corporations they are working with have contributed significantly to the fund, United customers are making an impact too. The carrier gives the option to passengers purchasing a ticket to contribute $1, $3.50 or $7 to the fund. So far, 60,000 customers have contributed over $200,000 to the fund. 

The Chicago-based carrier began testing the use of SAF in 2009 and implemented the fuel in its operation in 2016 for regularly scheduled flights. The first maiden flight using 100 percent SAF was completed in 2021 from Chicago to Washington, D.C. Based on a press release from earlier this year, the carrier anticipates using nearly 10 million gallons of SAF this year, almost 10 times the amount used in 2019.

Zach Cooke

Author

  • Zach Cooke

    Zach’s love for aviation began when he was in elementary school with a flight sim and model planes. This passion for being in the air only intensified throughout high school when he earned his Private Pilot Certificate. He then attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, earning his certificates and ratings to later flight instruct and share his passion for aviation with others. He now resides in the North East living out his dream as an airline pilot.

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