United to Further Decarbonize Air Travel

Amid increasing scrutiny of airlines and their impact on global warming, United has announced plans committed to invest $40 million in an effort to accelerate the development of sustainable aviation fuels and other decarbonization technologies.

In a just-released statement, the carrier, (which earlier this year agreed to purchase up to 10 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over the next two years), said it will look to collaborate with other environmentally conscious partners on this new initiative.

Among all airlines around the world, United holds more than 50 percent of all publicly announced purchase commitments to using sustainable aviation fuels and is the only U.S. carrier to currently use this fuel on a continuous basis.

“United has been an industry leader in environmental sustainability—including being the first U.S. carrier to announce a bold pledge to cut our carbon footprint in half by 2050 relative to 2005,” Scott Kirby, United’s president said in a statement. “However, to achieve this goal, we can’t be content as a leading airline undergoing an evolution to adapt to climate change. We aspire to be the airline leading the revolution to fight climate change, and this new initiative will further empower us to reduce our impact on the environment and fly towards a more sustainable future.”

United’s latest commitment to invest in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and decarbonization technologies, along with its pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, are just two examples of the airline’s various efforts to decrease its impact on the environment.

Some of United’s other environmental initiatives include:

—Becoming the first airline to incorporate sustainable aviation fuel in regular operations on a continuous basis, marking a significant milestone in the industry by moving beyond test programs and demonstrations to the everyday use of low-carbon fuel in ongoing operations.

—Investing more than $30 million in California-based sustainable aviation fuels producer Fulcrum BioEnergy, which remains the single largest investment by any airline globally in sustainable fuels.

—United’s option to purchase, subject to availability, nearly one billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest offtake agreement for sustainable aviation fuel in the airline industry.

—Operating the Flight for the Planet last June, which United says represented the most-eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind in the history of commercial aviation.

—Becoming the first airline to fly with Boeing’s Split Scimitar winglets, which reduce fuel consumption by an additional 2 percent versus standard winglets; United is the largest Scimitar winglet operator today, with nearly 400 aircraft equipped with these winglets.

—Becoming the first U.S. airline to repurpose items from the carrier’s international premium cabin amenity kits and partnering with Clean the World to donate hygiene products to those in critical need.

—Eliminating non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on aircraft and replacing them with a more environmentally friendly product made of 100 percent bamboo.

—Continuing to replace its eligible ground equipment with cleaner, electrically powered alternatives, with 40 percent of the fleet converted to date.

Airlines have found themselves increasingly in the spotlight over their carbon emissions and contribution to global warming as a growing number of people are demanding action to counter the effects of climate change.

Earlier this year Responsible Travel issued a manifesto regarding climate change and the impact airlines are having on this pressing issue.

The activist travel company calls the aviation industry one of the fastest-growing contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The manifesto challenges governments around the world to take action to reduce demand for flying through taxation and other measures.

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