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United takes Green to the Skies in historic flight

[ December 10, 2021   //   ]

United Airlines made aviation history on December 1 by operating an unprecedented flight that serves as a turning point in the industry’s effort to combat climate change. For the first time in aviation history, a commercial carrier flew an aircraft full of passengers using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
United is the world leader in the usage and support for the development of SAF, an alternative fuel made with non-petroleum feedstocks, already having agreements to purchase nearly twice as much SAF as the known agreements of all other global airlines combined. SAF has the potential to deliver the performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a fraction of its carbon footprint, and according to the US Department of Energy, the country’s vast feedstock resources are enough to meet the projected fuel demand of the entire U.S. aviation industry.
“United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action,” said United CEO Scott Kirby, who flew onboard today’s historic SAF flight. “This SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we’re demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.”
The demonstration flight departed with more than 100 passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and landed at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport. The aircraft was a new United 737 MAX 8 that used 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and the same amount of conventional jet fuel in the other engine to prove there are no operational differences between the two. It also sets the stage for more scalable uses of SAF by all airlines in the future.
Currently, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF on board. The SAF used on today’s flight is drop-in ready and compatible with existing aircraft fleets.
The unprecedented flight was operated in partnership with Boeing, CFM International, Virent – a subsidiary of Marathon – whose technology enables 100% drop-in SAF, and World Energy – the world’s first and North America’s only commercial SAF producer.
United launched an Eco-Skies Alliance program in April 2021 that has now collectively contributed toward the purchase of more than 7 million gallons of SAF in 2021 alone. With its nearly 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional jet fuel, this is enough SAF to eliminate approximately 66,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, or enough to fly passengers more than 460 million miles. Including today’s newly announced participants, the program has nearly 30 participants including companies like DHL Global Forwarding, HP Inc. and Nike.
The new participants include: American Family Insurance, Biogen, Bolloré Logistics, CWT, Maersk, Meta, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, Salesforce, Visa, Yusen Logistics, and Zurich North America.
This SAF flight and new Eco-Skies Alliance participants are among the latest accomplishments towards United’s goal to be 100% green by reducing its GHG emissions 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets.

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