United Airlines has created an investment fund to scale up the supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund will be used to invest in start-ups focused on accelerating the research, production and technologies associated with SAF.
Sustainable aviation fuel, which is crafted from cooking oil and agricultural waste, is a greener option for aviation travel but currently must be blended with conventional jet fuel to meet regulatory requirements for use within the aircraft.
The fund has launched with more than US$100 million from inaugural partners Air Canada, JPMorgan Chase, GE Aerospace and Honeywell, and is open to further companies.
The carrier is also encouraging passengers to contribute to to the fund, with the first 10,000 people set to receive 500 miles for their contribution (provided they are MileagePlus members). Customers have the choice to contribute $1, $3.50 or $7 to the fund, though the default option is set at $3.50.
United says that if the 152 million people who flew with the airline last year each contributed $3.50 to the fund, it would have been enough to design and build a SAF refinery capable of producing as much as 40 million gallons of alternative fuel annually.
The carrier is also providing an estimate of each flights’ carbon footprint on its website and app, which customers will be able to see when they search for a flight. Green shading will indicate a lower-carbon option on a per economy seat passenger basis.
United CEO Scott Kirby commented: “Solving climate change is doable but it requires hard work and real leadership. This fund is unique. It’s not about offsets or things that are just greenwashing. Instead, we’re creating a system that drives investment to build a new industry around sustainable aviation fuel, essentially from scratch. That’s the only way we can actually decarbonize aviation.”
In the past two years, United Airlines Ventures has invested in start-ups such as Cemvita, Dimensional Energy and NEXT Renewable Fuels, and the airline has invested in the future production of over three billion gallons of SAF.
United also aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050 without help from carbon offsetting programmes.
The carrier highlighted the importance of the US government’s recent Inflation Reduction Act, a tax credit scheme which is designed to boost SAF infrastructure and lower costs for consumers.
London’s Heathrow airport, meanwhile, warned this week that the UK risks slipping behind Europe and the US in the development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) if the UK government does not take action.