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United Airlines embraces biofuel for its ‘Flight for the Planet’


June 10, 2019
By United Airlines

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United Airlines, a longstanding leader among all global carriers in environmental sustainability, made history on June 5 – World Environment Day – with the departure of the Flight for the Planet, the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind in the history of aviation. On the Flight for the Planet, United became the first known airline to demonstrate all of the following key actions on a single commercial flight: utilization of sustainable aviation biofuel; zero cabin waste efforts; carbon offsetting; and operational efficiencies.

United is using the Flight for the Planet to evaluate key measures of flying as sustainably as possible using the airline’s current technology, resources and fuel-saving procedures. The flight departed from gate B12 at United’s hometown hub of Chicago O’Hare for its “eco-hub” in Los Angeles, where sustainable aviation biofuel has helped power all the airline’s flights from the Southern California hub since 2016.

“The historic Flight for the Planet showcases United’s philosophy of working together to find new and innovative ways to lead us into a more sustainable future,” said Scott Kirby, United’s president. “As an airline, we see our environment from a unique perspective every day and we know we must do our part to protect our planet and our skies.”

The Flight for the Planet further illustrates United’s commitment to its bold pledge to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2050.

Sustainable aviation biofuel

United powered the Flight for the Planet using a 30/70 blend of low-carbon, sustainable aviation fuel provided by Boston-based World Energy, and traditional jet fuel. The biofuel alone achieves a greater than 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to traditional jet fuel, and using biofuel is one of the most effective ways an airline can reduce its impact on the environment.

United recently renewed its contract with World Energy, agreeing to purchase up to 10 million gallons of cost-competitive, sustainable aviation biofuel over the next two years. United was the first airline globally to use sustainable aviation biofuel on a continuous basis and the only airline in the United States to currently do so.

United’s commitment to the environment

United’s Flight for the Planet represents yet another innovative initiative the airline has undertaken to reduce its overall footprint and further ensure its reputation as the world’s most environmentally conscious airlines.

Some of United’s most significant environmental achievements include:

• Becoming the first airline globally to use sustainable aviation biofuel 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 agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is the largest offtake agreement for biofuel in the airline industry.

For more information on United’s commitment to environmental sustainability, visit united.com/ecoskies.